New Year, New Me: The Origins of New Year

The new year is finally here which means a fresh start for everyone around the world. Page 1 of 365, 365 new days, 365 new chances.

The weeks between Christmas and New Year’s is filled with people eating, spending time with their families, and of course, thinking about New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions have become a way for people to show the different ways they are changing to be a better person on social media and to test whether or not they are motivated enough to follow through. However, New Year’s resolutions actually have a history that dates all the way back to 4,000 years ago.

The Babylonians were the first to hold celebrations of the new year and made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and repay their debts.

This also happened in ancient Rome when Julius Caesar established January 1st as the start of a new year. Named after Janus, a two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January was significant for the Romans. Believing that Janus looked backwards into the past year and ahead to the future, Romans made sacrifices and made promises of good behavior for the new year.

For early Christians, the first day of the year became the occasion for thinking about past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future.

At the end of the Great Depression, about 25% of American adults made resolutions. At the start of the 21st century, about 40% did.

A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that about 88% of those who actually set resolutions failed, despite the fact that more than half of the study’s participants were confident in succeeding.

Although most people fail in following through with their resolutions, I wish you (if you set resolutions for yourself,)  luck on improving yourself throughout 2019.


“Bunch of Failures or Just Optimistic?” Finder.

Jonah Lehrer “Blame It on The Brain” The Wall Street Journal.

“The History of New Year’s Resolutions,” The History Channel

(Copyright 2018 Ally Kim)

Ally Kim

Ally is a graduate of the class of 2020.