Seriously, who was it that came up with the idea for New Year’s resolutions? I suspect the idea germinated from a marketing meeting after a pitch by some advertising agency as a way to get us to buy stuff we don’t need.
Generally, the promise to give up smoking and drinking are the most common resolutions followed closely behind are losing weight, becoming more punctual, being honest and more self confident. Surveys suggest the success rate of adherence to resolutions is very low, but for some strange reason each January we make the same commitment year after year.
Who invented New Year’s Resolutions and where did they begin? Well, people have always associated new years with a fresh start. Even in the most ancient traditions, it was a custom to make improvements at such times. During the reign of the Babylonians, people made promises to do better starting March 23, their new year (spring equinox). One common resolution was to give back something one had borrowed in the past year.
InRome, Janus was the god of the New Year. The month of January was named after him. The New Year began on January 1st according to the Julian calendar invented by Caesar in 46 BC. Janus had two faces: one looked back on the past and the other into the future. The Romans worshipped him as a symbol of endings and new beginnings. During the holiday, they would do things that would hopefully kick off their year to a good start. They would make up with people they quarreled with and exchange gifts.
Judaism expects their followers to look back on one’s behavior during the past year. This was supposed to motivate the person to do better the following year.
I gave up on resolutions years ago, but for some reason I can’t help but make myself secret little promises right before the clock strikes twelve. Last year it was read Anna Karenina. P.S. she’s still sitting on my nightstand, but I am on page 325. This year it was exercise more, ban anything Kardashian from my life and learn a foreign language (preferably one the Kardashians’ don’t know).
I agree with Judaism. We should reflect on the previous twelve months and think how we can improve ourselves in the new year. So if you fall off the resolution bandwagon, don’t be discouraged. Either start over again or wait for 2013.