It’s the eve of the New Year, 2022! The celebrations held toward the end of the year – Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Winter Solstice are giving way to a new year. New years are generally times of promise and new beginnings. Very often, people make new year’s promises to themselves and others,known as “resolutions” – to start off the new year in a better way, or with great intentions to live life in a better and more productive or fruitful way.
All around the world, the New Year, whether celebrated on January 1st or on some other date, is welcomed with a variety of celebrations and rituals.
- In the Christian tradition, all over the world, people worship in churches and welcome the new year with prayers and serious contemplation around the meaning of life, an awareness of God’s blessings in the old year, and God’s promise of new life for all who understand and believe the Gospel of Jesus.
- In China the traditional new year is determined by an ancient lunar calendar; it is on the second new moon following the winter solstice. Celebrations include houses made clean and new scrolls made with writings for good wishes, harmony and blessing for the new Year. For the Chinese the Dragon is a symbol of goodness and strength and shows itself in parades and gatherings.
- The Hindu new year celebration, Diwali, comes in October or November each year and is a five-day celebration with expectations of good luck and prosperity.
- The Muslim new year, Muharram, is also determined by a lunar calendar and involves a ten-day festival with special commemorations.
- The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated in September or early October. Rabbis blow the Shofar, a rams horn, signifying the need to prepare spiritually for the upcoming year. This ten-day observance ends with Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.
- Some Native American communities welcome the new year with sacred foods, singing, drumming, dances, prayer honoring nature, the sun and the ancestors and communal meals in the long house.
- Many communities and ethnic celebrations include special foods and welcome the new year with fireworks, noisemakers and festive parades that were originally organized to stave off the evil spirits that may have infested the old year.
- The European/American tradition for the new year involves parties, singing and dancing with the singing of such favorites as “Auld Lang Syne” the song title roughly translated as “Days Gone By.”
While times and celebrations vary, there seems to be a common element of hope amongst people of different traditions – that bad events of the past are not repeated and that the new year becomes one of goodness and improvement in life. Certainly, within my group of friends and associates there is a hope that this coming year will be one of spiritual growth and meaningfulness. While this last year probably offered much good for many people, others have experienced illness and tragedy of different types and magnitudes, and all of us can think back to this past year and they many difficult events that brought unimaginable losses, destruction and pain-experiences that came to us as individuals, families, communities, nationally and within the world.
At the beginning of this New Year, we most likely have some desires and hopes for some kind of improvements for this new block of time. Amongst them might be: that our pain and grief will diminish; that our health will improve; that this pandemic will ease; that some form of special dream will come true; that our finances would somehow improve; that certain relationships would improve; that we would achieve a new wholeness and perhaps grow more as spiritual beings.
While New Years celebrations may be good times for new beginnings, we do not have to wait for a new year to have occasions for new starts. With God we can have beginnings each and every day. Our lives as baptized people of God foreshadow that promise of new life that comes to us each day with life within that covenant of faith. One of my favorite verses from the Hebrew Scriptures is found in Lamentations 3:22:24
God’s mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness;
The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in God.”
Thus, we are not locked in the past hardships or mistakes of this past year…we need not wait for some special celebration or ritual, for that matter. We are free to take each day as a new beginning, whether our steps are small or great, to move towards a more meaningful life. That is our true hope in the Lord, our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
May your New Year and your new beginnings be blessed, whenever and whatever this new year may bring.