Celebrating the New Year on 1 January is a relatively new and Western phenomenon, but the tradition of celebrating New Year dates back thousands of years. The earliest recording of a New Year celebration is from Mesopotamia, around 2000 BC. Other ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Persians and Greeks are also recorded to have celebrated the New Year. But New Year on 1 January didn’t really start until 1582 CE and in Britain not until 1752.
However, it has become a celebration that clearly resonates with different peoples though the ages. Maybe it has something to do with hope. The time it takes for the earth to make a complete revolution around the sun helps us make sense of the passing of the days of our lives. As we reflect upon days past, we remember both the good times when all was well with the world and the challenging times when we were often in despair. By marking the passing of the year gone by, and celebrating the year to come, we create space for hope, putting the problems and concerns of the past year behind us and preparing for a new beginning.
Many cultures and people are alert to the need for hope when they celebrate the New Year. We hope for good things, particularly when the last few weeks have seen such trauma, despair, loss and destruction. We hope that the nations of the world will put their arguments behind them. We hope for healing for our planet. We hope for a renewing of health. We hope for calm and serenity.
While the Bible doesn’t say much about New Year, it has a lot to say about hope. The Bible identifies a general need for hope as well as the specific need for people to put their hope in God. The beginning of the school year is a time for hope, and I pray that our Carey community is able to find hope and provide hope during times of uncertainty.
A new year stands on my doorstep
ready to enter my life's journey.
Something in me welcomes this visitor:
the hope of bountiful blessings
the joy of a new beginning
the freshness of unclaimed surprises
Something in me rebuffs this visitor:
the swiftness of the coming
the boldness of the entrance
the challenge of a year's good-bye.
Something in me fears this visitor:
the unnamed events of future days
the wisdom needed to walk love well
the demands of giving away and growing.
A new year stands on my doorstep.
with fragile caution I move
to open the door for its entrance,
my heart leaps with surprise,
joy jumps in my eyes,
for there beside this brand new year
stands my God with outstretched hand!
God smiles and gently asks of me:
can we walk this year together?
And I, so overwhelmed with goodness,
can barely whisper my reply: ‘Welcome in!’
Janine de Paiva
Junior School Chaplain