In Britain and Ireland, the New Year has come at various times through history. The Celtic peoples began their year usually in May or November (see November 1st). The Romans initially began their year in March, which is why September, October, November and December incorporate the Latin words for ‘seven’, ‘eight’, ‘nine’ and ‘ten’. Later they changed the start of the year to January, naming the first month after their god Janus, who looks both back and forth, the god of doorways. Gradually this practice spread to the whole world, although some major groups of people in today’s world have their own calendars in addition, and start their years at different points in the year.
In Scotland and the northern parts of England New Year is given much importance: folk go from house to house wishing each other a good year ahead, and celebrate their good wishes with food and plenty of drink. It is often seen as important who should be the first to cross the threshold and ‘bring in the year’ once midnight has passed. This is known as ‘first-footing’. It is good for Christians to ask Christ Himself to come and ‘first-foot’ for us, to welcome Him into our home and invite His blessing, whether He comes in silence or in the company of other guests. We could light a candle in the darkness and ask for the love of Jesus to light us.
The suggested prayer for today is based on a poem by Minnie Haskins (1875-1957):
Lord Jesus, You are the man who stands at the gate of the year. Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. As I go into the darkness, I put my hand into Yours, for that is better to me than any earthly light and safer than a known way! Amen.