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A New Year, A New Challenge

When it comes to celebrating the arrival of the new year, the world is full of interesting and unusual customs. Maybe you would enjoy spending the night in a cemetery in the company of dead loved ones as people do in Chile. In Romania, the new year is celebrated by men, women, and children donning bear costumes or bear furs and dancing to flute music. In Spain and many Spanish-speaking countries, you will be blessed with good luck in the new year if you can eat 12 green grapes in the time it takes for the clock to finish tolling 12 times at midnight on New Year’s Eve. One of my favorites, though, comes from Ecuador where the popular tradition is to celebrate the new year by setting fire to a scarecrow-like doll representing “the old year.” The tradition is said to represent getting rid of regrets or letting go of the bad things from the previous year. The tradition certainly sparks my imagination, at the very least, as an avid golfer, there’s no end to the bad habits that I would love to set fire to.


Closer to home, we’re all familiar with New Year’s Eve traditions like popping champaign corks while watching the ball drop. Then of course there’s that whole New Year’s resolution thing, wherein we’re supposed to use the opportunity of the new year to somehow behave much better in some way starting on January 1.


Last week, I happened across a guest essay by Roger Rosenblatt in the NY Times entitled “This Year, Make a Resolution About Something Bigger Than Yourself.” Rosenblatt argues that most New Year’s resolutions are “penny-ante prayers,” promises made and mostly quickly broken to be “fitter, healthier, cleverer, richer, more successful, more popular,” and on and on. What if, he writes, “we focused our intentions on all that is undesirable in human activity. – wars, bigotry, brutality, the despoiling of the earth – and sought to address it?” He suggests that we find some action, however small, that is within our control that might lead to a world that’s a better place for our children and grandchildren. Sounds like a tall order, but it’s really pretty simple isn’t it. Essentially, he’s proposing that we refresh our promise “to love God and love thy neighbor as thyself.” And isn’t this the perfect time to pause and reconsider where are hearts and mind stand, and what needs to change in our lives, even just a little bit each day, to love each other and to renew our souls for Christ.

May his blessings surround you and yours in 2024 and beyond,


Jerry Kahrs


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