One of the things Julius Caesar did, that we deal with daily, was invent our calendar. He started the year off with January, named after the god Janus, who could look backward on the past year while looking ahead to the new one. Julius, however, did not invent New Year’s Resolutions, but borrowed the tradition from the Ancient Babylonians who prayed to their gods so they could get healthy and plentiful crops. They made their resolutions in the spring as they planted their fields, way before Julius’ time. The belief was, if they kept their word and made good on their debts, the gods would be favorable to them and their harvest would be bountiful.
The Romans, taking and making this tradition their own, but now in January, made sacrifices to Janus, also hoping that their New Year’s prayers would be heard. Resolutions also survived the dark ages, with knight’s chivalrous vows in medieval Europe. After them, John Wesley, the English clergyman who started Methodism, recreated the tradition and started New Year’s Eve congregations, and it’s all downhill from there. Noisemakers, sparkly glasses, Champaign…
At least the folks in history made resolutions to their gods and it meant something to them. They believed that they were going to be held accountable, and if they didn’t follow through, the gods would punish them with droughts, floods, sickness, etc. Even though quitting smoking, exercise and a healthier diet can lengthen your life, it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as angry gods who might kill you and your family. In fact, some statistics say that only 8% of resolution makers actually make good on their vows.
I agree with always trying to better one’s self, but why wait till the darkest time of the year, get shithouse drunk, tell people how you’re going to change your life, wake up on the first day of the new year sleep deprived with a headache and try to remember whatever the hell you were going to fix in your life? Might work for some folks! This year, I might make a resolution to make a resolution in June!