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The History Behind New Years

With the start of the new year, many people will make resolutions in an effort to improve themselves or their lives. Well-known examples include exercising more frequently, eating healthier, spending more time with family, etc. Although ringing in the new year with a set of goals is a popularized tradition, a study performed in December of 2019 reports that less than 8% of Americans actually achieved their resolutions. This is likely due to the fact that most goals are too vague or ambiguous, and therefore hard to measure or accomplish. For example, what does “exercising more” actually entail? Without specificities, it’s definitely difficult to set realistic goals. Here is a link to some methods for transforming your New Year’s resolutions so that they are practical and effective.

What is the origin behind New Year’s resolutions?

Ancient Babylonians are said to be the first group of people that made resolutions, taking us back to more than 4,000 years ago. These resolutions were promises made to gods to pay off debts and return any borrowed items. If the Babylonians followed through, they would be rewarded by the gods throughout the coming year. Furthermore, Babylonians were also the first people to have recorded New Years’ celebrations with traditions occurring in mid-March when crops were typically planted.

Other Ancient New Year Celebrations

Ancient Rome- Calendae Ianuariae
Celebrated on the first of January, the Roman New Year was familiarly marked using the solar calendar. Romans celebrated the New Year by making offerings to Janus, the god of transitions, time, and new beginnings. In addition, friends often exchanged gifts of figs and honey. Most Romans also worked on New Years Day since they believed that starting a new year with laziness was a bad omen.

Chinese New Year – Xin Nian
Originally celebrated over 3000 years ago in the Shang Dynasty, Chinese New Year is one of the oldest traditions still continued in the modern-day. Based on the lunar calendar, the date of the New Year varies from year to year but usually occurs in late January or early February (this year it’ll be February 1st, 2022). According to a popular legend, there was once a dragon named Nian that haunted villages, and to fend off the creature, citizens would decorate their houses with red trimmings, burning bamboo, and bright lights- these decorations are still implemented in modern celebrations. Lunar New Year is one of the largest celebrations in Chinese culture, and festivities typically last for fifteen days. People decorate doors with scrolls, repay old debts, and feast on dumplings. In addition, every year corresponds to a zodiac animal, with 2022 being the year of the tiger.