The world has many different ways to welcome the New Year—ways that might seem strange compared to our American traditions. For example…
- In Scotland, New Year is called Hogmanay. Barrels of tar are set on fire. Then, they are rolled down village streets. This tradition is said to symbolize the old year burned up and the beginning of a New Year.
- In Columbia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico families reportedly stuff a life-size male doll with objects that remind them of bad memories or sadness. Then, they dress up the doll in old clothes donated by the family members. At the stroke of midnight the doll named, Mr. Old Year, is set on fire. The burning of the objects and the doll helps the family to do away with past unhappiness and bring in happiness with the New Year.
- In Spain, people eat 12 grapes when the clock chimes at midnight on New Year’s Eve with one grape being consumed at each chime. This ritual allegedly originated last century when strange weather conditions appeared to yield an unusually abundant harvest of grapes. There were so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and grape growers came up with the idea of eating the grapes on New Year’s Eve.
- In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, people are said to carry a suitcase around a house, and some even around the block, when midnight comes in with the hope of travelling in the New Year.
- In China, many people wear a pair of new slippers on New Year’s that were bought before the New Year. This tradition reportedly suggests stepping on the people who gossip about you. (Hmmm! I got new slippers last year but I never thought about using them this way!)
- In Japan, the people allegedly eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles late on New Year’s Eve. The noodles are called “toshikoshisoba” meaning, “year-crossing noodles.” While eating the noodles, they listen for the sound of the Buddhist bells which are rung 108 times at midnight. The sounding of the bells are believed to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that “plague every human being.”
(Selected from “The Top Twenty Funny, Fascinating, and Unusual World Wide Customs To Celebrate New Year,” funny-jokes.com)
I imagine the people from other cultures and traditions would think our customs strange for welcoming the New Year, as well—customs like lighting fireworks, making toasts, showering down balloons and confetti, blowing horns, singing Auld Lang Syne and don’t forget, giving one’s significant other a kiss.
Then, of course, there’s New Year’s Day with family gatherings, watching parades, feasting on food, shopping for deals by some, football games for others, and maybe taking a nap on one’s favorite recliner. Aaaahh! What a life!
Unfortunately, others among us have to work—a tradition not usually followed by choice, but done so that the rest of the people can leisurely enjoy the holiday. This takes in those who work in stores, at gas stations, restaurants, parades, media, and the like.
And don’t forget those who traditionally provide important public services whether it’s a holiday or not—first responders coming to the aid of others, charity groups helping the needy, hospital workers, care providers for the sick and elderly, plus veterans and troops at home and abroad. These are good ways to be involved during the holiday, by doing good work for others.
While there are many ways people welcome the New Year (including foolish ways, like driving drunk or over indulging in junk food or involvement in any kind of harmful revelry), what about those who profess to be Christians? Well, there are some spiritual traditions that are most rewarding as we begin a New Year. For example…
I remember when I was growing up, my church held a New Year’s Eve Watch Night. It began around 9 p.m. with families gathering for a time of table games, snacks and refreshments in the fellowship hall. Then, around 11:00, we’d all go to the sanctuary for a service that would include singing, scripture readings, testimonials, a brief devotional by the pastor. Then, just before midnight, we’d have a “season of prayer” where everyone would have an opportunity to offer a prayer. When the service was finished, the New Year had just begun. It was most inspirational to begin the service in worship as the Old Year ended and close the service in prayer just as the New Year began.
Sadly, there are not as many churches today who’ve kept up this tradition. However, there are still some who do. They may have a New Year’s Eve Service at midnight or it may be held earlier in the evening. But if there’s an opportunity to attend a service, I would highly encourage making this a family tradition.
Some churches may also have services on New Year’s day. This, too, is a good way to start out the New Year. It all fits into the Biblical directive, “…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Hebrews 10:25, New American Standard Bible, NASB).
“The day” that is “drawing near” is “the day of the Lord,” when Jesus returns to judge the world and save his people as he establishes God’s Kingdom on the earth (Isaiah 13:6-16; Joel 2:1, 11; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 24:31, 42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). In preparation for that Day, we need to gather together and encourage one another as often as we can while there’s time. And what better way to do this than to begin the New Year in worship with one another of like faith!
Another good way to welcome the New Year is personal prayer. Even though you don’t attend a service, you could begin the New Year right by offering your own silent prayer—giving thanks for God’s blessings in the past year and asking for his guidance and wisdom in the coming year. You might also remember to pray for persons or requests if your church has a prayer list. And don’t forget to pray for your community, your leaders, the nation, and even those you find difficult to get along with, as well as your own needs and concerns, as the New Year dawns (see Matthew 5:44; 1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:16).
While many go out for New Year’s, whether to a dinner or a party, there are still those who are alone. Some might like to have a quiet evening by themselves, turn in before the clock strikes 12, and that’s okay. But there are others who might enjoy having some company and would like a visit. Christians can take a meal to shut-ins or visit someone in a senior home, or other care facility for the sick and challenged. What an excellent way to encourage one another as the Bible says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Another way to welcome the New Year is to begin a daily Bible reading schedule. Some, like myself, follow a plan to read the entire Bible in one year. You might say, “Well, I started this activity before but when I missed some days and got behind, I never achieved what I set out to do.” It’s not difficult to get discouraged throughout the year and be tempted to skip to the parts in the Bible that are more entertaining. But I’ve found that every verse can be interesting, even the “begats” or the “drier” verses containing the Law, if they are read with curiosity and taken in context with how they fit in the scriptures as a whole. If you have a cross-reference Bible, you can see how one verse fits into other verses like pieces to a puzzle. And, also, don’t forget, ALL of God’s Word is God-inspired and profitable:
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
But even if you don’t have a plan to read the entire Bible in a year, you can still start out with reading a passage or two each day. There are many sources available for following a structured list. Or you might just want to pick out something at random. If you have a topical reference Bible, you can read scriptures according to a topic or theme. Or, if you attend a Sunday School class, your Bible lessons might have a daily Bible reading plan for each week. The New Year is an excellent way to start being refreshed reading God’s Word each day.
To add to your daily scripture reading, you can also find a plethora of devotional books, on-line devotionals, and the like, as you start out the New Year. There’s really no excuse for not being able to find some well-written inspirational articles and stories via internet, mobile phones, You Tube, print media, and so forth. And you can share what you find with others, too, on social media.
These are just some good examples of ways Christians can welcome in the New Year. Do you have any other good ways? If so, why not share them? We’d be glad to hear of a good Christian way you welcome in the New Year.
Good News to YOU!
And have a Blessed New Year 2020!
P.S. And by the way, there’s another good way to welcome the New Year, and that’s by listening to Christian music. Here’s a real good song to start out with, “The New Year Worship Song”: http://youtu.be/lfGvYoN2jKU