New Year’s Eve 2018 has come and gone, as has new Year’s Day 2019. Like many Americans, we watched the various programs, such as Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. In all honesty, I found all the programming kind of lacking – the interviews with people in Times Square who were soaking wet from all the storms in the area were lousy time fillers that added nothing to the spirit of the evening. And Jenny McCarthy – what can I say? It’s embarrassing to even watch her – to say the least.
Admittedly, as I get older, I have less tolerance for the fluff on television and look forward to real news or at least to learn something. In a way, I wasn’t disappointed. On one of the channels they started to speak about New Year’s superstitions, many of which I had already heard about. For example, black eyed peas are a staple to eat on January 1st as a sign of good luck and even lentils, because they look a little like coins, are encouraged because they could bring good fortune. Collard greens are to be eaten as they resemble paper money and can bring about financial success in the year to come.
There were other superstitions, however, that I was not familiar with. For example, nothing is to be thrown out on the first day of the year (not even garbage) because it could signify poverty the rest of the year and the first person in your home after midnight will determine the fate of your guest list for the remainder of the year. All bills should be paid off before the first of the year or you may risk living with bills throughout the new year and you should do some work on January 1st or else you may struggle for enough work to do the rest of the year.
Aside from all these things, we should all make as much noise as possible at midnight to scare away evil spirits or the new year could be problematic. And we better check the weather because if the wind is blowing from the south, we are in for prosperity and if it blows from the north, we are in for a tough year with weather. An eastern wind brings famine and calamity, while a westerly wind signifies the death of a famous person but we will have plenty of milk and fish!
Even more interesting than some of these superstitions were the ones about New Year’s Eve and what must be done before or at midnight. In Spain, it is believed that people must eat twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight – one each time the clock chimes. This ensures a prosperous year (one grape for each month) and the practice is heavily endorsed by the grape growers consortium. Children are not to participate because of the choking hazard but some parents disregard this warning and include the entire family in this ritual. Why does that not surprise me? Unfortunately, this New Year’s Eve, a three year old child in Spain choked to death at midnight as he couldn’t chew and swallow the grapes as quickly as the clock chimed. By the way, in another tradition, much safer than the grapes, walking around the block with your suitcase before midnight will “ensure” a year of travel ahead.
But the oddest of the superstitions has to do with the color underwear you choose to wear on December 31st. Yellow or green underwear signifies a coming year of good fortune while white undies promise a year of peace. Red underwear “guarantees” a year of love and who wouldn’t want that? I was surprised at the statistics of the number of people who go out and buy new undergarments in anticipation of the promise of wealth, peace or love in the coming year!
But for those of us who believe in Christ, the superstitions aren’t necessary. We have a much stronger force working on our behalf. And while most people don’t realize it, there is a Bible verse that Christians traditionally cling to at the start of the year; and that is our verse for this evening.
The prophet Isaiah tells us, speaking of God, in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Those words are meant as an encouragement to us as we begin the New Year – and we are to leave the old year behind us… The Lord will do a new thing for us and we should be able to sense it. My prayer is that God will continue a good work in each of us during 2019 and that we will be aware of the changes that He is causing in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Because we don’t need the superstitions – we have God Himself! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…