why we make new year's resolutions
Some 4,000 years old clay tablets tell us that the ancient Babylonians have been the first people to make New Year’s Resolutions. They were also the first that actually celebrated the begin of the New Year in a religious festival, known as the Akitu. The Babylonian New Year started not in January but in mid March, when the crops were planted. It was during these celebrations when people made promises to the Gods to pay their debts or to return things they had borrowed. These promises to the Gods can be seen as the ancient roots of today's New Year’s Resolutions.
A quite similar tradition was practiced in ancient Rome after Julius Caesar changed the calendar in 46 B.C. and established the 1st of January as the beginning of the New Year. Named after "Janus, the Two-faced God", January had a special meaning for the Romans. They believed that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future. The Romans offered sacrifices to Janus and made promises for the coming year.
Although there is a direct line from ancient Roman tradition, today's New Year's Resolutions are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement, such as losing weight, stopping smoking, saving money, being more successful, etc..
When it comes to my own plans and resolutions, I'm not very focussed on this 1st January tradition. The reason I chose Rome this time as my New Years holiday destination was to touch and understand our history and traditions. It was time to make a sacrifice to Janus, the Two-faced God. Only here, in this eternal city, I would find the ancient place to send the evil spirits of the last years to where they belong - the past.
My own New Years Eve tradition is to get together with my friends. This is the time when we recall the highlights of the last year and it is very interesting to listen to the stories everyone has to tell. Stories full of good and bad memories, full of fun and sometimes tears from laughter. Our New Years Eve is a sharing of the things we care about, with the people we care about. We are focussed on what we did do, instead of what we want to do. Like in business, our success is measured from the progress report, not the execution schedule.
No matter whether you have New Years Resolutions or not - I wish you a happy, healthy and successful Year 2018.