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New Year’s Resolutions: What’s Up With That?



by Diane Larson



Why do we make resolutions for the New Year? When did it start? What’s it all about?


The practice of making New Year’s Resolutions began 4,000 years ago with the Babylonians. Each year, at the beginning of the year, which for them was in March, they would make resolutions or promises. These promises would involve paying off debts and returning borrowed objects.


According to, they would hold an 11-day festival in March to ring in the New Year. This festival was known as Akitu and took place during the time of planting. The term Akitu comes from the word for barley, according to Wikipedia.


Similarly, in ancient Rome, according to, “Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.” This deity was known as Janus and was an important god to the Romans. His name means two-faced god. The Romans believed that Janus looked back into the previous year and at the same time into the year ahead. They would make sacrifices to the deity and promised to be on their best behavior for the year to come.


Wikipedia tells us that during the “Medieval era knights took the ‘peacock vow’ at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.” Google defines Chivalry as “the combinations of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice and a readiness to help the weak.”  Mainly making their New Year’s Resolution to be better or continue their good works.


Whether Babylonian, Egyptian or Knight of the Roundtable, the concept is one of reflection and self-improvement. 


Eventually, this practice came to America. says that about one-quarter of Americans made New Year’s Resolutions at the end of the Great Depression, by the end of the 21st Century about 40% of the population made resolutions.


The notion of making New Year’s Resolutions is ingrained in our culture today. It isn’t unusual at this time of year, especially the days between Christmas and New Year’s, for conversations between friends, family and co-workers include the phrase, “What is your New Year’s Resolution?”


Persons making resolutions in 2018, according to, are most interested in saving money. Their online survey conducted in November of 2017 found that of the more than 1,000 people who answered the survey 53% of them said that their resolution is to save money. The second most popular resolution at 45 percent, was to get in shape or lose weight. Following the top two, in chronological order were: have more sex, travel, read more, learn a new skill, buy a house, quit smoking and finally find love.


Keeping resolutions isn’t anywhere near as easy as making them. In an article on, psychologist Richard Wiseman said that “52 percent of persons making resolutions were confident that they would stick it out. Yet only 12 percent really did.”


It is difficult to actually keep those resolutions.  Laurie L. Dove from HowStuffWorks offers some help. One main idea is to not keep your resolution a secret, tell others. Getting others involved is a way to keep the resolution alive and work towards a positive outcome with your own personal cheerleader. And gives you a chance to be that cheerleader for them as well.


Another piece of advice is to keep the resolution small and manageable. If your goals are too big it can put too much stress on you and eventually could set you up to fail.  


As one of our founding fathers said, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better [wo]man.” Benjamin Franklin




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