At first, the Romans celebrated the beginning of the new year on March 1, not January 1. Julius Caesar instituted New Year's Day on January 1 to honor Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. The custom of "New Years resolutions" began in this earliest period, as the Romans made resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others.
In 1752, when Britain and its possessions adopted the Gregorian calendar, that January 1 again came to be recognized and celebrated as the first day of the year.
Puritans urged their young people, especially, to skip the revelry and meditate on the year past and the year to come. Always ready to introspect—in famously excruciating detail—they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions. They vowed to take more care against their besetting sins, make better use of their talents and other divine gifts, and treat others with Christian charity.One of the most famous list of Resolutions was
created by the American Puritan divine Jonathan Edwards. He penned them, not on a single New Years' Day, but throughout two pivotal years after his graduation from Yale, during which entered his first pastorate, in Northampton, Massachusetts.
During these years, Edwards intensely considered his spiritual state and devised ways he could improve himself as a Christian. The resulting list of resolutions reminded him to dwell each day on his own death and eternal destiny and to bring his every emotion, thought, and action in line with the Word of God:
"48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of."
To read Edwards's full list of resolutions, click here.