New Year’s Eve. The one night that marks the beginning of our numerical calendar of days, months, and years. Who knows why the calendar makers of yore picked that one particular day. It is after the winter solstice, after the Christian new year of Advent, after the Jewish new year of Yom Kippur, after Chinsese New Year and, before almost anything else. But, that is not the point here, it was chosen and, although adjusted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar (or maybe it was the other way around) it is what it is. Tonight we start a new beginning.
Thus, tonight we ring in a “new” year. Ringing, I guess, came from some medieval practice of ringing church bells at midnight. I find there is some universal fascination with newness. Newness marks the beginning of a fresh start, a clean page, a different perspective, and perhaps something even more hopeful than what was old. We all share in the mystical, magical, mystique of almost anything new. I remember as a child I just loved Easter, not because I understood the resurrection, but because I always got a new pair of Mary Jane shoes and a new dress. I can even remember that the first scuff on those shiny new shoes marked them as “old” and they were no longer special. Even Christmas gifts don’t necessarily fall into the “new” category although they are new, but in the “getting stuff” category. New is in a category all of its own.
Newness doesn’t even have to be really new either. One can buy a pre-owned vehicle, but it is new to the buyer. Or, one may move into a pre-occupied house or apartment and it is new to the dweller. Even things bought in a thrift shop that were once to new to another, will be new in our home or on our bodies. New can also be a new experience, a trip to a place we’ve never seen, or starting a new job or hobby we’ve never tried before. New is many things.
New is also the concept of wiping the slate clean and starting over such as on Yom Kippur when sins are forgiven and Jews everywhere begin life anew. For me, I think that our Chrisitan penitential season of Lent would be a more appropriate liturgical new year. We reflect and repent of our sins, our soul is resurrected into a new beginning and we try ever so hard to live into that perfection that Jesus so desperately wanted us to be. I wonder if he realized that in our human imperfection we would never quite reach that pinnacle he dreamed for us. Lucky for us that we get a chance to try it year after year after year, however.
On New Year’s Eve many make resolutions to start a new way of living. We try to make these new starts better than whatever it was our old self represented. Someone once said that a new year’s resolution was a resolve forgotten a week later. I gave up on those years ago when I realized how unrealistic I was being. Lose 50 pounds by May? Come on! I am better at living into things like trying to find the good in every situation, or smiling more often, or throwing out random acts of kindness.
So, whatever “new” means to you, let us all celebrate the calendar “New Year” and, if nothing else, resolve to be the best human being we can be in 2012! We don’t even have to define it. Just keep asking ourself the question: Does what I am doing, or the decision I am making, make my life or someone else’s life better? Then choose! The happiness in your life will be reflected by the choice you make.
Happy New Year, my friends.