Maybe it’s the sense of the dying away of the old and the beginning of something new that prompts New Year’s resolutions to be made. Each year, countless resolutions are made, but have you ever wondered where this tradition began?
About 4,000 years ago, before Roman Emperor Julius Caesar established Jan. 1 as the beginning of the new year, celebrations in honor of the new year were held in mid-March during what would be the planting season in the Sumerian calendar.
The ancient Babylonians, who lived in parts of what is modern-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey in the Middle East, are said to have celebrated with a 12-day festival during which they crowned a new king or reaffirmed their loyalty to a reigning king and promised their gods they would make their debts right in the year to come or risk falling out of favor.
But they weren’t the only ones to make resolutions.
In ancient Rome, January was named for Janus, the two-faced god who was believed to look back into the previous year and ahead into the future. The Romans made sacrifices and promised to behave well in the year to come.
Modern Christmas celebrations have adopted the same mindset. Children attempt to make the “nice list” so they will receive presents on Christmas morning instead of a lump of coal promised to those on the “naughty list.”
But whether your resolution is to make Santa’s “nice list” or to kick an old habit, the new year offers the perfect opportunity to make a fresh start. Maybe that’s why Baby New Year is a popular New Year’s figure.
Baby New Year is a mythical symbol of rebirth dating back to ancient Greece. He’s depicted as a baby on Jan. 1 but becomes Father Time, an old man, by Dec. 31 when he passes on his title to the next Baby New Year.
This is also a title given to the first baby born in some communities. The official New Year Baby is often hard to pin down, but babies born on New Year’s Day are always new year babies to their parents whether born at midnight or mid-afternoon.