Today we officially start the first week of the new year. Putting another year behind us, I think we can agree, represents a fresh start in a way that lands differently than other years. The new year is full of hope and promise.
Most people start the new year by reflecting on their successes and challenges from the past year. Setting goals and working towards achieving specific milestones is a fantastic way to stay motivated. Where did the idea of new year’s resolutions originate? You may be surprised to learn that the tradition dates back as far as ancient Babylon.
Over 4,000 years ago, the Babylons celebrated Akitu, a 12 day festival during which they would plant crops and make promises to their gods about what they would do the upcoming year. The belief was that if they acted favorably towards the gods, the outcome of their year would reflect that.
In Rome, Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar in 46 B.C. which declared January 1st as the start of the new year. The date honored Janus, a two-faced god who symbolically looked back into the previous year and forwards into the new year. The Romans would offer sacrifices to Janus and make promises of good behavior for the year ahead.
Knights in the Middle Ages, the ancient Chinese, the Jewish community, and many other cultures also had traditions rooted in reflecting on the previous year and heading towards a fresh start with a new year. Many of those traditions remain to this day. Some traditions are celebrated at different times through the year but the sentiment of the traditions remains the same. People, in their search for something greater-whether that is in improving relationships, personal habits, professional aspirations, or individual growth- originate in the idea of turning the page on what has been and pursuing the future with renewed purpose. Since ancient times, the idea of a “new year” has come to be celebrated in many ways around the world- some still rooted in religious and cultural traditions, and for others, observed in more secular ways.
Whatever your belief, it is a finite moment in time where we all have a chance to reflect on the last year’s ups and downs and make choices that can positively impact the upcoming year. It’s a personal promise to commit to a goal that will alter our path and often those around us, since our behaviors impact others.
The past year again presented many challenges for us as a world community and for us as individuals. Many would attest that they didn’t easily adjust to the sudden change in daily routines, faced professional adversity, were challenged by personal struggles, and far too many families experienced the devastating loss of loved ones. To say the year carried a unique heaviness would be an understatement. Despite that, the human spirit continues to drive on, seeking ways to overcome even that which seems insurmountable. And so, we move into the new year, albeit with some hesitation, but also with great hope that the new year will provide the fresh start we all seek.
Let’s make a joint resolution and commitment to find new ways to reconnect. Acts of kindness are infectious and simple gestures go a long way. Even with half our faces covered and the loss of hugs, social gatherings, and distancing, we still have the power to connect with compassion, patience and a smile that shines in our eyes.