December 31, 2013
Why Getting Drunk and Making Resolutions on New Year’s Eve Are Profoundly Religious Acts

If you Google the question, “Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?”, you’ll find all sorts of reasons: There’s a psychological appeal in setting goals; the ancient Romans used to offer resolutions to the god Janus, for whom January is named; humans love the feeling of hope, etc.

But there’s another explanation: New Year’s resolutions play a role similar to religious observance in our lives.

Wendy Doniger, a professor at University of Chicago Divinity School, spoke with me about the symmetry between religious rituals and New Year’s traditions. “The idea that you’re suddenly going to change is a magical idea,” she said. “Religions are in charge of magic for most of us. This [idea] gets into the popular culture as well.” She’s using “magic” as a sort of sociological explanation about the role faith and ritual play: Religious belief is predicated on the assumption that there are forces beyond our control or understanding that have an influence on our lives (i.e., magic, if you’re a sociologist; God, if you’re a monotheist). 
Although New Year’s traditions aren’t explicitly religious for most people, many of them share the patterns of religious ritual.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Why Getting Drunk and Making Resolutions on New Year’s Eve Are Profoundly Religious Acts

If you Google the question, “Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?”, you’ll find all sorts of reasons: There’s a psychological appeal in setting goals; the ancient Romans used to offer resolutions to the god Janus, for whom January is named; humans love the feeling of hope, etc.

But there’s another explanation: New Year’s resolutions play a role similar to religious observance in our lives.

Wendy Doniger, a professor at University of Chicago Divinity School, spoke with me about the symmetry between religious rituals and New Year’s traditions. “The idea that you’re suddenly going to change is a magical idea,” she said. “Religions are in charge of magic for most of us. This [idea] gets into the popular culture as well.” She’s using “magic” as a sort of sociological explanation about the role faith and ritual play: Religious belief is predicated on the assumption that there are forces beyond our control or understanding that have an influence on our lives (i.e., magic, if you’re a sociologist; God, if you’re a monotheist). 

Although New Year’s traditions aren’t explicitly religious for most people, many of them share the patterns of religious ritual.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

  1. rachelshootsthings reblogged this from theatlantic
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  4. weatherwimp reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Hm. Food for thought.
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  6. mpritchard80 reblogged this from theatlantic and added:
    Intriguing…
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  9. 23ivanalves said: And dumb
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