New Year celebrations are, for the most part, worldwide. In ancient Thailand, people fired guns to frighten off demons, thinking that would make the new year demon free. In ancient China, people used firecrackers to repel the forces of darkness. Church bells in Italy rang to repel evil forces while the Swiss beat drums for the same purpose. The origin of using sirens and party horns in America was to repel evil demons.
Food and drink have been part of new year celebrations. In Spain, revelers stuffed their mouths with 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock. In the southern part of the U.S., people thought eating black-eyed peas and pork would bring good fortune in the coming year. In some cultures, people believed that eating a ring-shaped treat such as doughnuts symbolizes “coming full circle” and would bring good fortune. Dutch homes served fritters called “oliebollen,” and the Irish enjoyed “bannocks.” In India and Pakistan, people believed that eating rice would bring prosperity in the new year.
New year celebrations bring the hope that the coming year will be better than the past year. The things that can prevent that from happening are human selfishness, greed, abuse, and power struggles. Jesus Christ addressed this in Luke 12:16-34 when He told the parable of the rich man and his treasure. Jesus summarized the parable in verse 21 by saying, “The man who hoards things for himself and is not rich toward God remains a pauper in God’s sight.” He then tells His disciples that life is more than food and the body is more than clothes (verse 23). He ends the teaching by warning His disciples not to set their hearts on food and drink. He said, “Pagans make food and drink their aim in life … but rather let your chief care be for the kingdom of God” (verses 29-31). He ends the discussion by saying, “Your heart will be where your treasure is” (verse 34).
This New Year’s Day is a great time to take stock of what you value in life and where that will take you in 2023. Christians do not have to worry about demons or food or drink because their focus is on spiritual matters. While having another year of life is a good thing, having eternal life is even better.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2022.