Their 12-day celebration, known as Akitu, was a time to honor deities in the hope of a generous harvest season. The people of ancient Babylon would plant crops, return borrowed belongings, pledge to settle debts, and confirm their allegiance to whatever king ruled at the time. In exchange, the gods would, hopefully, facilitate a bountiful and safe year.
Through time and space, New Year’s resolutions and celebrations remained. In the Roman Empire, for example, the new year coincided with the Ides of March on the Roman calendar. Food, drinks, religious observances, and general revelry were had as the new year began and the people pledged contributions to a better life in the coming months.
During the time of Julius Caesar’s reign, things shifted a bit. The Julian calendar slated the new year for January in honor of the Roman god Janus: a deity known to have two faces and act as the guardian of gateways and doors. His dual-directioned visages and reign over thresholds were thought as ideal symbolism for stepping into a new year with reflection on the past and vision for the future.
Through the Middle Ages, New Year’s resolutions were common ways for knights to reaffirm their valor and dedication to their vows, though the Julian calendar didn’t have a clear date for the celebration. When Pope Gregory XIII adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, January 1 was sealed as the official start of the new year and resolutions typically mirrored the teachings of the church.
Many throughout history and modern times alike regard New Year’s resolutions as a functional starting point for betterment. Generally, those of us participating in their creation focus on ways to improve ourselves or our communities: we plan to eat healthier, read more, start that business, create more art, dedicate time to volunteering, or set up a monthly donation to a worthy cause (Forgotten Harvest can help you out with those last two一check out our volunteer and donation pages for more info).
Though New Year’s resolutions can come with a reputation as something we make just to break, planning ways to feel or do more good in the new year can set us up for a fresh start.
If you’ve had trouble keeping your resolutions in the past but want to make the effort this year, consider the parameters of your planning. Is your goal threshold realistic? Did you formulate small, actionable steps you can keep track of throughout the year? Remember not to beat yourself up if you make a misstep. Rarely is the path to any goal linear so be kind to yourself and others as we all hold hope for the new year.
Can we help you get started? Visit our volunteer page to get involved in the magic of helping your community!