New Year’s Resolutions: Through History and Today

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New Year’s resolution shouldn’t be a burden. They should be an inspiration. What is most important to you this year? Here are some ways to ask yourself.


It’s easy to get jaded about New Year’s Resolutions when you look around media today and it’s rife with diet advertisements about becoming a whole new you. We mumble and grumble about how New Year’s is just another commercial scam to make us spend money… but is it?

All hail Janus!

Ancient Romans, like Greeks, Egyptians, and many other nationfolk, worshipped many gods. Among them was Janus, who the month of January is named for.

Romans chose to begin the year with Janus’ month, at the start of which they would make promises to him. He was the god of war and peace, but also of transitions and changing times. As future gave way to past, the progress thereof was attributed to Janus’ influences.

It’s fitting a new year would begin under the auspicious watching of this ancient Roman god, but long before the Romans, Babylonians also had special “New Year’s” traditions. They’d square up any debts that befell them over the previous year, and would also return all borrowed items.

To begin anew

From ancient Babylonians to modern-day Jews observing Rosh Hashanah, reflecting on the past year and aspiring to betterness over the coming year is something humans have done for some 4,000 years, if not far longer.

Whether you tie it into religion or it’s about a celestial time and space, it’s painfully obvious that a new year is best begun with a little reflection and aspiration.

When you’re given a chance to start over, it seems natural you should consider what it is you’re starting over, right?

garden sprout backyard gardens

Bang in a new year

From popping firecrackers to blowing horns and firing guns, New Year’s Eve is nearly always a noisy affair.

Noise seems like a critical part in celebrations of all kinds today, as cheering signifies our excitement and approval, but dating to ancient times, other societies met the new year with noise for different reasons.

In ancient China, the land that invented firecrackers, the explosives were set off in order to drive away darkness as a new year dawned. Thais and other nationals blast off guns to drive out demons and other evils even today.

Traditions in the home

Many cultures attach a lot of significance to our homes at New Year’s. Columbians believe in sweeping your whole house in order to sweep out bad energy. Coupled with a Native American smudging to remove spirits, it could cleanse a home of a whole lot of bad juju, if you believe in all that.

The Chinese New Year falls in February, but they believe the whole home should be cleaned before New Year’s day, making a point to put all cleaning implements, brooms, etcetera, away too. On (Chinese) New Year’s Day proper, one should not sweep or clean for fear they will clean away the good fortune of the new year.

Chinese New Year

Of course, if you’re doing the whole-house-cleaning, make sure you start at the top of your house (cleaning shelves, blinds, moldings) down to the bottom, since dust settles down, not up. Also make sure you clean from the front entrance to the back, since the Chinese and many other cultures believe good fortune comes in the front door and bad luck goes out the back. This is why many think bad fortune shall befall you if you carry garbage out the front door.

Less brings more

Some cultures also believe it’s the ideal time to purge your home. A full home can’t attract anything, but a home with room to grow can let new, wonderful things in.

The belief is simple: If your cupboards and drawers are full, how can new fortune enter your home? By giving away things and getting rid of unnecessary clutter, the theory is that you’re creating space for new things to come. Doing this at the start of the year means you’ll stand a better chance of having a year of abundance and newness.

Success depends on your definition

A 2007 study famously stated a whopping 88% of its 3,000 participants failed to meet their New Year Resolution goals.

Attaching a specific, measurable goal to your aspirations can be great for a small fraction of people, but for most folks it’s a line of succeed/fail. If they don’t achieve the “lose a pound a week” goal, it’s considered a failure.

When it comes to you, your home, your job, your family, why not make it easier on yourself and have a simple goal for your year ahead? My New Year’s goal is the same every year and it’s very simple: “Always Be Improving.”

A better person

In 365 days, I might not be lighter or richer, or maybe I will. But I’ll be a better person. I’ll have worked to gain more empathy, applied myself to all my goals so I see some kind of positive progress, and I’ll have learned new skills and had new experiences.

Life’s full of challenges and there is a lot we can’t control. Beating yourself up for not having your goals play out like you dreamed is a foolish thing. This year, make a list of all the things you’d like to accomplish, from biking further than you ever have to actually cleaning out your gutters before big storms are due to land — and if you cross off some of them, isn’t that enough to celebrate?

Inspiration, not burden

From me to you, I hope you set yourself goals that inspire you, rather than burdened you. If you end this coming year being satisfied with where you are in life, love your home, and you enjoy waking up in the morning, then you’re a success in my book.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.