“Making the years count” and “counting the years differently” are the same phrase in my book. I think it’s best to look at each year as an opportunity, a chance, full of room for growth and adventure. Fresh and unopened. In writer’s terms, a new year is as enticing and mysterious as a blank sheet of paper. The one key thing to keep in one’s mind (and heart) is that each year is not a promise. Every day is a gift, simply to be alive, and each blessing unfolds as we are in good health, find true friends, heal family relationships, seek financial peace, and encourage joy in serving others. Breathing is a reason to be grateful, when else discontentment is so easily fostered.

Resolutions have always been such a vital part of New Year’s Eve. I never have written nor agreed with the concept, but before you disagree with me, let me tell you why. Resolutions are seldom kept and often hard to attempt at keeping. I find this idea more agreeable: Making a New Year’s accomplishments or ambitions list, comprised of what you wish to accomplish in that year. The fun part is occasionally checking the list throughout the new year and seeing what you can do to help further each one into reality. The most fun part is rereading the whole list at the following New Year’s Eve and noticing what you did accomplish, and what you accomplished that was not on your list. The unaccomplished goals turn into dreams, and I think that is something better to strive for before heading out into the next year.

A tradition seemingly of years past for our New Year’s happened on New Year’s Day. Yes, there were parties, but interestingly, in the 1800’s and 1900’s, New Year’s Day was set apart for “calling” (visiting) friends in their homes, to right wrongs, strengthen relationships, and never forget “Auld Lang Syne” (Scottish for “old long since” or, days of old) to start the New Year off right. People would try to clear their debts by the New Year and mend any broken relationships.

A book from 1869, “Martine’s Hand-Book of Etiquette” by Arthur Martine, says, “Visits of courtesy or ceremony are uniformly paid at Christmas, or at the commencement of a new year, independent of family parties; a good old custom, the observance of which is always pleasing, and which should be carefully attended to. It is uniformly right to call on patrons, or those from whom a kindness has been received.”

I strongly agree with this old notion! Turn your New Year’s Day into a day of visiting old friends, paying off debts and righting wrongs. Asking for forgiveness even if you’re not in the wrong can bring many relationships to good ends.

There are other cultural and historical New Year traditions that I enjoy, such as cleaning the house on New Year’s Eve to go in the year afresh, going for a walk outside on New Year’s Eve or Day to “walk out” the old year and “walk in” the new, opening doors or windows at midnight on New Year’s Eve to “let out the old year and let in the new,” or dipping apple slices in honey to symbolize hopes for a sweet new year. There is an Ozark mountain superstition that “what ever you do on New Year’s Day represents how you will be spending the rest of your year.” I believe this is true. As we head into the new year, will you be working? Partying? Spending time with family? Visiting friends? Making amends? Complaining? Rejoicing? Quietly observing?

I say we make the New Year count and start it off right. More than that, we must end it right. If we want “peace on earth” by next Christmas, we are the ones to make it. We can work towards making each year full of meaning and generosity, beginning with 2017. 2017! Our nation is still so young. We have much to learn, and many helping hands to give. I’d please to wish you a prosperous year, in more than earthly wealth, with a quote from “God Knows” by Minnie Louise Haskins:

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’

And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”

Learn from the past, celebrate the present, and preserve the future.

Margaret is an aspiring local writer who wants to bring the values of the past into the life of the present. You can reach her for feedback by emailing sospower@outlook.com.