History of New Year's Resolutions
New Year's resolutions have a long history. Actually, New Year's itself has been celebrated for at least 4,000 years.
The Babylonians began celebrating New Year's Day in pre-2,000 BCE. The Babylonians celebrated the holiday on March 23, the first day of Spring. It's really a natural fit when you think about it. It's the time when everything turns new; the grass begins the grow and crops are planted.
To start the year, Babylonians made resolutions to the gods in order to receive favors. However, if the resolutions were broken, it was bad luck. The people were encouraged to make resolutions they could hold the entire year.
The Romans began celebrating the holiday on March 25th for the same reasons the Babylonians did. In 153 BCE, the Roman Senate placed Janus at the beginning of the calendar. However, over the next century various Caesars made their own tweaks to the calendar. New Year's Day would switch from January to March and back again several times before Julius Caesar changed the calendar permanently by aligning the seasons in 46 BCE and making January 1st New Year's.
Janus, a two-faced god who looks to the past year and forward to the new, is said to have started resolutions at New Year's for the Romans.
The legend of Janus is that on the last day of December at midnight, Janus would see the past year and next year at the same time. The Romans would begin making promises to Janus on the last day of December in hopes that he would see their promises with sincerity and help them reach their goals.
As for New Year's, after the fall of the Roman Empire it was moved to March once again to be held the same day as The Annunciation of the Lord. Nonetheless, January 1st did hold some significance to the Catholic Church. During the 11th century, the church accepted January 1st as a Feast Day to celebrate Jesus's circumcision. In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII made the final changes to the calendar which moved New Year's back to January 1st. In 1752, the British Empire adopted the calendar, making January 1st celebrated throughout their entire kingdom.
Today, January 1st is celebrated in almost every country in the world as the beginning of the New Year.