We all know why we celebrate Christmas and Halloween, but does anyone really know why we make New Year’s resolutions? Some argue that we do so because of tradition, but where did this tradition start, and why? Today, resolutions are not common anywhere except for western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. “We make resolutions in order to reach our full potential, to make ourselves better,” says Lizzie Jira ‘19. “I have no idea why where they came from, though,” she adds.
Resolutions may have gotten their start when the Babylonians made promises to their gods in the beginning of the year. These promises were not to better themselves, unlike the promises we make today. Most dealt with physical, concrete things. Common Babylonian promises included making more sacrifices to the gods, being loyal to the king, or working more. These promises were made at the New Year’s festival, Akitu.
The ancient Romans also made promises to their gods at the beginning of the year. These promises, like those of the Babylonians, were frequently to the gods. Roman senators pledged to do their jobs faithfully, and citizens often took an oath of loyalty to the emperor. Similarly, in medieval times, knights promised to continue to serve their rulers in the beginning of the year, renewing their knightship.
However, current resolutions are probably a result of Lenten promises made by Christians. During Lent, Christians make a promise to give something up with the purpose of improving themselves by becoming more devoted to God. People again try to improve themselves at the beginning of the year.
Resolutions became common in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when about a quarter of Americans made resolutions. The practice became increasingly popular with time, and currently about 72% of Americans make one each year. Making resolutions is now considered a tradition by many people.
Another factor that causes people to make resolutions is the human inclination towards hope. People believe that they are able to accomplish their goals, and the idea of a new slate that comes with a new year propels their motivation even further. Maggie Mullaney '19, made a resolution this year. “My resolution this year is to be less mean and sarcastic because people always tell me I’m too mean and sarcastic,” she says.
Some people, however, are entirely against resolutions. Madison Booseveld ‘19, has never made a resolution in her life because “they are too hard to keep,” which is true for the majority of people. Out of all resolutions made each year, about 61% of resolutions do not last more than six months, and 92% do not last the entire year.
In short, resolutions have a long history. People have been making them since the days of ancient civilizations, and they are still a tradition today. While resolutions show that people hope for the best, these goals declared annually are rarely achieved.