One of the most familiar and oldest New Year holiday traditions is the making of resolutions: commitments to breaking bad habits, completing projects or improving one's life in some way. People have probably been promising to change their ways in the upcoming year ever since the concept of a year developed.
Historians believe that the tradition was in place at the time of the earliest recorded new year celebrations of the ancient Babylonians during the vernal equinox, c. 2000 B.C. These early new year resolutions involved making promises to the gods to do things like pay off debts and return borrowed items in order to get the year off to a good start.
By the sixth century B.C. the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah was likely well established as a time when people looked back at the mistakes of the past year and planned changes to make in the new one.
Some time later, the early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past sins and resolving to do better in the future.
As for the immensely popular custom of breaking resolutions within a few days, weeks or months of making them, there is no evidence of exactly when this practice originated, but I suspect it probably stretches back to at least 2000 B.C.
Today some of the most popular resolutions are:
And there's even a sort of 'New Year Resolution 2.0' available in the guise of an online resolution generator for those in search of something different.
Are New Year resolutions a tradition of yours? Have you made any this year? And it is probably never too soon to ask: have you broken any yet?
Happy New Year!