Most of us have made or broken New Year’s Resolutions at some point in our lives. Have you ever wondered when the practice of making promises to improve something about oneself on the first day of the year began?

The Beginning of New Year’s Resolutions

The custom originated from the early Romans. The first month of the Julian calendar started with the month of Januarius. This was to honor Janus, The Roman god of new beginnings. Janus is symbolized by his icon of two faces, one looking backward and the other looking forward.

History of New Year’s Resolutions

According to Professor Richard Alston of the Department of Classics, Royal Holloway University, Roman officials in those days took oath to the Emperor on the first day of January to show their loyalty to the republic. This was a grand ceremonious event where the Roman legions paraded and offered sacrifices to the Capitoline Hill. This was participated in by the state and the citizens to renew their bond to each other and with the gods. Janus was a god of new beginnings and was associated with doors and thresholds, and he symbolized the value of family, home, friendship and civilization. When Rome is peaceful, his temple’s door is closed. When Rome is at war, the door’s to Janus’ temple is thrown open.

Resolution’s Points to Remember

The next time you swear to New Year’s Resolutions, remember that you are doing an ancient practice of looking back at the year that past and looking ahead to a new beginning. Remember the Romans who met with family and friends, too, and made their oath. This sense of history might even help you stick to your resolution this time and keep for the whole year.



University of Royal Holloway London. “Ancient traditions: Why we make new year resolutions.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 December 2013.