The ancient Babylonian ritual of humbling the king happened every year during the New Year festival called Akitu. On the fifth day of the festival, the Babylonian king would surrender his crown and scepter to the head priest. The priest would then drag the king by the ear in front of an image of the Babylonian god. The king knelt to pray for forgiveness. Then the priest would slap him in the face as hard as he could. If tears fell from his eyes, it was a sign that God still favored the king. If the king failed to cry, it was a sign that God was angry.
According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, the king “…would willingly and meekly, once a year, submit himself to such a humiliating procedure.” While some people might like to revive this tradition, it is hard to imagine a world leader submitting to such a humbling ritual today.
One modern New Year’s ritual that is derived from the Babylonians is the New Year’s resolution. Every New Year, the Babylonians would promise to repay old debts and return things that they had borrowed. Today, this idea of wiping the slate clean during the New Year has transformed into a time for self-improvement. People around the world use the New Year as a chance to reflect on past mistakes and turn over a new leaf.
According to one survey of top New Year’s resolutions, improving health, relationships and finances are the most common ones. The top 10 most common resolutions are:
1. Diet or eat healthier (71%)
2. Exercise more (65%)
3. Lose weight (54%)
4. Save more and spend less (32%)
5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)
6. Quit smoking (21%)
7. Read more (17%)
8. Find another job (16%)
9. Drink less alcohol (15%)
10. Spend more time with family and friends (13%)
Despite people’s best intentions to get in shape or eat healthier, most people do not succeed. By the end of February, 80% of people fail. In the long run, just 8 percent reach their goals. One of the reasons that people fail is they bite off more than they can chew.
If improving your English this coming year is one of your goals, we’d like to help you with some small challenges that won’t overwhelm you. These will be mini-challenges that you can do with limited time, but together, can snowball into greater English fluency. If you’re interested, just enter your email below and we’ll send you weekly challenges over the next month to get the ball rolling. Let’s make this New Year a great success together!