Happy New Year! Am I too late? What is the last day that this is allowed? I generally shoot for mid-January and after that, I just say hi, so I take back my Happy New Year and just say hi so as to keep with my own set of rules. There are many traditions around the world on how to welcome in the new year. In Spain, for example, it is customary to eat 12 grapes—one at each stroke of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve. If one is successful, then each grape represents a month of good luck in the upcoming year. This is even more impressive given that seedless grapes are not common in Spain and every time I have participated in this, the grapes have also been rather large and it has been challenging to choke down twelve in 12 seconds. Colombia and Brazil have many traditions to welcome in the new year, such as wearing yellow clothing or yellow undergarments to symbolize prosperity and good energy for the new year or wearing red clothing in hopes of finding love in the new year. One might also see Colombians out and about at midnight with an empty suitcase in hand in the hopes that their dreams of increased travel to exotic locations will be fulfilled. For many in the United States, it is customary to watch a big lit ball drop in New York City and then hug and/or kiss loved ones as the new year begins.
In my case, to welcome in 2020, I found myself in Twin Falls, Idaho, with my older sister, my oldest daughter, and one of my daughter’s friends. The ball being dropped was some $14 ball purchased at an auction for “no apparent purpose,” stated as weighing as much as a “bag of dog food,” lit with a string of Christmas lights and lowered by an old truck while attached to a long rope hanging from an abandoned grain silo in an industrial part of town. In other words, it was comparable to New York—and exactly where I wanted to be.
It is interesting to think of the new year and new decade because so many of us pause for a moment reflect on the previous one and set goals for the upcoming year. While our new year commences on January 1st, different cultures and peoples celebrate their new year not following the Gregorian calendar, but rather their own calendar commonly based on other lunar phenomena or on different religious traditions. For the Chinese calendar, January 25th is the beginning of the new year in 2020 and it will be the Year of the Rat. The Islamic New Year takes place in late September, and there is a Hindu New Year in late March. Each country or region hopes and often prays for joy and prosperity in the new year. In the United States, we often set goals and make New Year’s resolutions. Typically related to personal goals such as losing weight, getting in shape, eating healthier, saving money, traveling more, etc. Often our resolutions are quickly forgotten; a bishop I know lamented how much he hated the start of a new year because all of the treadmills at his gym were full for the first two weeks in January, so he would have to wait for time to pass until they all opened up again.
2019 was a very interesting year in my life and a cause for deep and poignant reflection. May I encourage all of you to consider some new resolutions to increase your humanity that maybe you can start working on as the Chinese New Year approaches. Set the goal to be kinder to those around you. You never know what that person may be carrying as their cross to bear. Say “I love you,” “I am sorry,” and “Thank you” to the ones you love and the ones you struggle to love. Pause and enjoy the little moments. Sometimes we are so busy that we let those little miracles escape our view. Finally, don’t wait until the new year to hug and kiss those that you love because you may not get the chance. As we continue this semester, may we find a way to set resolutions that draw us closer to our Savior and closer to those around us. May we find some increase in our own humanity moving forward so that our reflection on January 1st of 2021 will be one in which we are able to say, possibly for the first time, that we kept our resolutions.
This post was written by Greg Thompson, Humanities Center Faculty Fellow.