New Year is not a holiday I understand fully. The change from one year to the next crosses only one boundary, and this year that’s from Thursday to Friday: a boundary of convention that is repeated week after week without much ado. We will not have stepped through a worm hole, nor will we have moved from one country to another, not even from one house to another. Yesterday will not have been left behind, and tomorrow will not be something entirely new, as if “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Yet it will be celebrated as if something old has been left behind, and something new has been born in innocence and hope.
My inclination is to celebrate that kind of dramatic change as belonging to Christmas and Easter. What do I know? But I digress.
New Year’s Eve marks the end of the holiday season that began with Thanksgiving while we have yet six of the twelve days of Christmas ahead of us. For some of us in the liturgical tradition those final six days become a bit tedious, if only because it’s hard to ring joyful enthusiasm out of a congregation satiated with the hard work of showing the right kind of holiday spirit. What began in genuine delight cannot be sustained for long. After awhile it becomes hard work, and it’s time to get back to the routine of daily life. The New Year marks that moment. We give lip service to the baby new year with all of it’s promise, but that pretty much ends by half time of the New Year’s Day football game. January may be dark and dull in our part of the world, but the blessed ordinariness of it comes as a relief for many.
Having harrumphed thus far along the way to New Year’s Eve, I must confess that we have plans for a celebratory dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and there is no doubt that my Oklahoma bred spouse will have black-eyed peas stirred into some sort of a concoction as a symbol of good luck for the new year. We may even find ourselves at a friend’s house to watch football. I will enjoy every minute of it, but then it will be time to soldier on to the Feast of the Epiphany when we will be the last in the neighborhood to take down the tree, put away the decorations, and turn off the outside Christmas lights. Then we too will relax in the understated joy of a few weeks of ordinary time.