"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids


A new year brings hope for new beginnings and new adventures. It's time to forget the year that's gone, and celebrate what can be in the days to come. The new year is a good time to make a fresh start, especially if you feel that things weren't going very well in the previous year. So when you change the calendar this year, maybe you would like to make some other changes as well. Here's our chance to start over, to do it right this time, to have another chance at success, to simply accomplish what we want to do.

People in many cultures throughout the ages seem to have felt a need to unload the accumulated results of fate and their own decisions and start over again. The ancient Romans named the month of January for their god, Janus, depicted with two heads. One looked forward, the other back, symbolizing a break between old and new. Such customs and practices, though modified over time, still affect the ways we welcome each new year. Modern symbols of the changing year are an old man winding up the last year and a newborn baby starting the next year.

The origins of our new year's celebration can be traced back 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. The Babylonians held their new year's festival in the spring, on the date of the vernal equinox, to greet the new planting season. Naturally, that is the time of year when new life begins to emerge from the dead of winter. Leaves turn green, flower buds open, hibernating animals venture out, and baby animals are born. Symbolically, the new year signifies a renewal of life. Hence the spirit of regeneration, while discarding the old and worn out. For example, the Creek Indians in the southern U.S. signified the end of one year and the beginning of another by cleaning out their homes and putting on new clothes. Basically, the whole range of New Year's Day celebrations stem from the various ways ancient societies used to greet new harvest seasons.

It was the Romans who first moved New Year’s Day backwards, making January 1 the beginning of the year in 153 B.C. However, mid-March continued to be considered the beginning of the new year by most Christian European countries throughout the early medieval era. Widespread acceptance of January 1 as the New Year came about only within the past four hundred years. This is because the date was unusual, since no astronomical, agricultural or seasonal significance was attached to it. It was just a civil date, the day after elections when consuls would assume their new positions in the Roman empire.

While today the New Year is celebrated all over the world on January 1, there still are other calendars in use. Asian countries that follow the Lunar Calendar celebrate the New Year in January/February. On the Hindu calendar, Diwali begins the New Year in India around October/ November. Rosh Hashanah commences the Jewish New Year in late September/early October.

The New Year, no matter when people have celebrated it, has always been a time for looking back at the past, and more importantly, forward to the future. It's a time to cherish our families and friends, to forgive others and make amends, and to consider the changes we want or need.

Did You Know…?

Today in U.S. we are more used to giving gifts at Christmas, rather than on New Year's Day. However, the tradition of giving gifts for the New Year is still practiced in many parts of Europe, including France, Switzerland, Russia and Greece. In fact, the custom of giving gifts for the new year was prevalent in Europe before Christ was born.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations for Families

1. Hold a family meeting. Talk about the best things you did together during the past year, make plans for the coming year, go over your resolutions and offer ideas for helping each other to achieve them.

2. Re-live special events and fun times (and have some good laughs!) by watching your home movies from the past year while waiting for the new year to arrive.

3. Snuggle up and read some classic stories aloud by candlelight (or flashlight).

4. Plan a “First Night” celebration (i.e., family talent show night) in the tradition of the musicians, actors, mimes, mummers, jesters, and puppeteers of old.

5. Have a family fun night and play some of those board games and card games that you usually don’t have time for.

6. Make it a movie night. Rent some movies or watch the videos/DVD’s that you got for Christmas.

7. Have a "Take-out Feast." Pick up some pizza, egg rolls, tacos, fries, onion rings, etc. - a little from each of your favorite restaurants.

8. Sit down together and brainstorm some ideas for your Family Mission Statement or a Family Motto, as discussed in previous NJFK articles.

9. Watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV. Then if your neighbors are still up at that time, open up the window or step outside and holler “Happy New Year” to them.

10. For all of the above, don’t forget the chips and dips or popcorn and ice cream, and you may want to include some silly noisemakers to use at the stroke of midnight!

A Wish for the World

May the year ahead bring
health and happiness;
hearts that love each other;
strength and perseverance;
people helping one another;
a renaissance of values such
as family, faith, and freedom;
the spirit of God within us
as a living temple for Him;
children safe from any injury;
forgiveness of the past;
no more terror, war or poverty;
and peace on earth at last.

~Teri Ann Berg Olsen

SEE ALSO: New Year Resolutions (Haven't thought of a resolution yet? Try picking one or more from the list! Do you really want to keep your resolutions this year? This article includes a few goal-setting tips.)




These pages are a continuous work in progress.
Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
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