Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Ancient Practice of the New Year's Resolution

By Kathy Kovach

‘Tis the season for shedding old habits and resolve to make oneself a better person. My peers are currently discussing writing goals, but when asked about mine, I duck faster than my thirteen-year-old self during a round of junior high dodge ball. In my plethora of decades on this earth, I can count on one hand how many resolutions I’ve kept. My intentions were always pure. They included the popular promises of most Americans. Eat right. Exercise. Curb my scented candle obsession. Okay, that last one might be just me.

At any rate, what are the origins of this practice? When were the first human beings to change their lifestyles and set themselves up for failure?

1909 Postcard
As with many traditions, this one has its roots in pagan Babylon. Their unwritten calendar began in March, but the concept was similar. Make promises. Appease the gods by paying their debts and returning objects they borrowed. Go back to doing what they’re destined to do. Rinse. Repeat. In medieval times, knights would make a Peacock Vow by placing their hands on either a live or a roasted peacock and vowing to remain chivalrous throughout the new year, thus upholding their values. My guess is they went to a cooked bird after a knight lost a hand to an aggressive beak.

1915 Postcard
By 46 B.C., Julius Caesar declared January 1 as the beginning of the new year, paying homage to the Roman two-faced god Janus. With one face looking behind, and the other looking forward, it seemed fitting that he would symbolize looking back to the old year and looking forward to the new. The Romans made sacrifices to this god and promised good conduct in the future.

The New Year Resolution took on various forms of redemption as Christians decided to forego the debauchery rampant with revelry. By 1740, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church,
John Wesley by George Romney
created the Covenant Renewal Service or Watch Night Service as it came to be commonly called. Late at night on New Year’s Eve, the congregants read scripture, sang hymns and prayed for the coming year. They confessed past sins and resolved to be better moving forward.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud anyone who wants to better themselves. But for me, I know my limitations. And my resolve. I like the idea of the early Christians praying for the coming year. Only God can make me a better person. But some people enjoy making that yearly resolution, and some will reach that goal. How about you? What kind of resolutions do you make? Are they serious or silly? Have you ever accomplished a 365-day commitment to your goal? As for me, there's a sale at Yankee Candle and it's calling my name!

A Bouquet of Brides Romance Collection
Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential?
"Periwinkle in the Park" by Kathleen Kovach
1910, Colorado
Periwinkle Winfield is a hiking guide helping to commission a national park. But a run-in with a mountain man who is determined to keep the government off his land may place her in great danger.

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband Jim raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado she's a grandmother, though much too young for that. Kathleen is a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. Yes, I've spent a whole year committed to a specific goal but it's been a few years. Now that I'm a bit older I am starting to say "when I retire", which isn't necessarily a good thing because I doubt that I will accomplish all that I want to do. I do feel it's a great thing to be more intentional about how you spend your time and resources, though. Thanks for the post!

    1. I agree on being more intentional about how you spend your time and resources. We should be doing that all year long. :)

  2. In January of 2009 I filled out a list of things I would do that year and a list of things I prayed God would do for me. One of mine was that I would spend more time with God and let Him give me the story to write. One request for God was to have an editor interested in my story and be offered a contract. In June of that year, on my 73rd birthday, my agent called to say Realms Fiction was going to send an offer for a contract. Later, in the fall and after they had the first manuscript, they sent a second contract for at least three more in the series. In January of 2010, my first novel was released. I gave God the year and He gave back to me more abundantly than I could ever have imagined. I've had books released every year since then.

    1. Martha, having watched your journey through ACFW, I rejoice with you. Great approach to the New Year Resolution!