New Year’s Resolutions… They COULD be Worse

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These days, New Year’s Resolutions seem pretty tough. After bingeing on ham, candy, pies, eggnog, and overspending for a month, we convince ourselves on January 1st (or 2nd if you’re a human) that we will start drinking kale smoothies for breakfast, we’ll exercise every day, and we’ll stop on-line shopping without so much as a thank you note to Amazon. BUT, the origins of New Year’s Resolutions are so much worse…

Whereas today’s 1/1 commitments are more or less a secular agreement with oneself to do better, our forebears used the new year to make promises (and repent misdeeds) to their god or gods. The Babylonians, for example, rang in their new year in March before planting with a 12-day celebration that culminated with their recommitting to their gods and returning anything they had borrowed (or stolen) that year. The stakes were higher for these early resolution-makers as well; if they made good on their promises, the gods would reward them with a bountiful harvest. If not? Kale smoothies for a full year!

We have Julius Caesar to thank for making January the first month on the calendar, a tribute to the god Janus who could look both forward and backwards (with his two faces). Every January 1st, Romans would look back on the year they had and offer sacrifices and promises to Janus that they’d be much better in the coming year.

 So, while we wish you every success with your resolutions this year, don’t fret. Your not making it to the treadmill on January 3rd is not going to inflame the gods. Your having one more piece of pie (just to get it out of the fridge) is not going to destroy the harvest. Live a little! It’s not like Janus is watching…

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