Year after year, we go through the repetitive motions of celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another. Although New Year’s celebrations are widespread, it’s not widely known why.
Also repetitive? The unprompted declaration of New Year’s resolutions from just about everyone. Whether a serious commitment or a wish that dies out by Jan. 3, resolutions make up one of many pieces that make up New Year’s Eve and Day festivities.
As reported by History.com, the first celebration of the new year took place nearly 4000 years ago in ancient Babylon. Unlike the Gregorian calendar we use today beginning in January, the Babylonians celebrated the start of the new year on the day of the March equinox (on or near March 21).
Much later on, in 46 B.C., extra months were added to the calendar. Because of this, the calendar fell out of sync with the Earth’s rotation around the sun. Because of this, Emperor Julius Caesar made a reform to add 90 more days to the calendar year, declaring that Jan. 1 would be the first day of the year.
In modern society, New Year’s Day is when people remember their past years, achievements and failures. People often also look forward to the new year to come, setting resolutions to work towards personal development. A new year is seen as the start of a new beginning.
Resolutions are also believed to have started with the Babylonians, who made promises to their gods to try and stay in their favour. Resolutions saw a revival in the 18th century when English churches began holding New Year’s services focused on correcting mistakes of the past year.
What is the purpose of making resolutions? When a resolution has been achieved, a sense of purpose ensues. Being able to complete a goal will lead to happiness and thus the idea of setting goals at the beginning of a new year leads to the structure and hope required for success and happiness in the future.
New year, new you?
There are misconceptions surrounding the concept of making resolutions and New Year’s. It is often believed that longer-term resolutions must be accomplished immediately (looking at you, buyer of a gym membership on Jan. 2).
However, this mindset will result in discontent and stress. Taking time to properly assess your life situation and making smaller, attainable goals will in the long run have a better impact on personal growth and development.
New Year’s is also often believed to be a time to change your perception of the world. However, one day will not instantaneously change your view on life. New Year’s, like any other day, is simply that: a day.
Believing that everything will change suddenly is unrealistic. Using New Year’s as a starting line to commence changes in your thoughts and actions is a much more beneficial approach to start making impactful changes in your life.
New Year’s does not have to be the only day used for self-reflection. Although New Year’s is a perfect time for reflection with the tradition of starting a new calendar year, any day of the year can be used for reflection and change.
Being open-minded and making obtainable goals are the most effective and positive ways to use New Year’s as a starting line for change. Whichever way you celebrate New Year’s, taking time to reflect on the past, present and future will set you up for success, achievement and happiness.
Cover photo: Moritz Knöringer/Unsplash