Trouble With Resolutions? Blame the Romans

by DavalosMcCormack on January 13, 2009

Well, we’re into the second week of the New Year. How are your resolutions going? Yeah, mine too. But really, it’s not our fault. It’s the fault of the pesky Romans and Babylonians. They started this nonsense!

The Babylonians – at least according to the histories I’ve been reading – came up with the idea of making resolutions to start the new year. They began this illustrious tradition more than four thousand years ago and we’ve all been suffering because of it ever since.

Now, the Babylonians thought that what a person does on the first day of the New Year will have an effect on their behaviour throughout the rest of the year. So, if you start the year not smoking and trying to exercise more often then you may be more likely to continue those habits for the whole year.

It’s a nice idea. There’s only one problem. For the Babylonians the New Year began in March rather than late January. It was meant to coincide with the planting of crops in the spring, to celebrate the return of life in nature.

That makes a lot more sense. You’ve made it through a grim winter. The weather is getting better, you are going to be outdoors planting stuff (there’s your exercise) there’s more fresh fruits and veg around (better diet) and you are not stuck indoors all day with your irritating brother Hammurabi (doesn’t he ever bathe!) so it makes sense to start resolving to be a better person in some way or another.

Nowadays we make our resolutions in January when most of the country is battered by snow or is pounded by miserably cold, wet weather. Who feels like getting up out of bed to go for a run or even go to the gym before work when it’s cold and grim outside.

Come to think of it who feels like going to the gym or working out on the way home after work when it’s equally dark outside and even colder and more grim than in the morning.

We’re setting ourselves up for failure even before we’ve started.

Plus the gyms are all packed with other people making the same mistakes we’re making so you can’t even get on the machines you want to.
Who’s to blame for that change in timing? The Romans that’s who. They used to celebrate the New Year in Spring as well but then for some cockeyed reason moved it to January, and when you are the most powerful empire the world has ever known when you do something everyone else follows along.

And here we are, more than 2,000 years later, stuck with some arbitrary date because some guy in a toga and birkenstocks decided it worked better for him.

But guess what? The Roman Empire is long gone – though their aqueducts are still around and the Colosseum is still way cool – so we don’t have to do what they say anymore.

So here’s an idea. Forget the resolutions. At least until March. As Spring comes, the days get longer, the weather better, the odds of trying to be more active are greater. Forget the Romans, be a Babylonian.

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