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Looking Forward, Looking Back

Updated: May 17, 2021

New Year, new start! When the calendar changes over, thousands of people celebrate by making new goals for the 12 months ahead.

How did this tradition begin?

The tradition of making New Year's resolutions goes back over 4,000 years, to the ancient Babylonian festival of Akitu. The Babylonians believed if they kept their promises to the gods, they would stay on the gods' good side.

The history of New Year’s resolutions continued in ancient Rome. Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar in 46 B.C. which declared January 1st as the start of the new year. This new date honoured Janus, a two-faced god who symbolically looked back into the previous year and forwards into the new year. On December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.

Knowing the history helps us to stay on track. When we are excited to look forward, I feel it is more important we look back and learn from the past. Looking back allows us to take stock of our failures and successes, set a framework and move forward with a new year.

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