Catholic Activity: New Year's Eve Party
Here are some suggestions for a fun, family-oriented New Year's Eve party. Note that January 1 is no longer the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, but the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been restored by Pope John Paul II to January 3. On this day we celebrate the circumcision and naming of Jesus.
New Year's Eve is the eve of the feast of the Circumcision as well as the night of the turning of the year. Even to the unchurched, New Year's Eve is a waiting to start all over again. It is good to gather together to wait for the time of starting again, but sad to see so many make such a poor start. The reason the Church made it a holy day of obligation in the first place was to attempt to counteract the excesses of the pagan celebration. In the early centuries she kept the eve of the New Year and the day following in prayer and quiet. When December 25 was officially declared the feast of Christmas, New Year's Day fell on the feast of the Circumcision, which rite in the life of Christ the Mass celebrates this day.
In order to form our children in customs that celebrate a happy and holy New Year's Eve, we can reverse the custom of "going out," and stay in. A party for our family, and other families if possible, can celebrate with food and fun and a time of "watch," all the things we want to celebrate this night. To bed for the children at ten o'clock or thereabouts, and as the new year rings in, parents walk through their bedrooms ringing a bell to wake the sleepy celebrants so that they may call out "Happy New Year."
If there is a parish Mass or Holy Hour, the grownups can arrange the rest of the evening so that some may attend while baby-sitters prepare a festive breakfast at home.
A party for such a group should include a game of thanks. Each brings some token symbolizing a blessing; and after a supper that includes all the things children envy the grownups at their parties, everyone tries to guess the meaning of the tokens.
A doll: someone is thankful for baby. Three have dolls: thrice thankful for baby. A tiny car? This year we have a car! A Red Cross swimming certificate: one boy is thankful that at last he learned to swim. A book? A slow reader is slow no longer and reading is a joy. Three heads of wheat (guess two thank-yous for this): bread on our tables, and the Bread on our altar. Two candy hearts? Hearts mean love. Two kinds of love? Love of God and family. Of all things — a bag of peanuts! All the children shout. "The trip to the zoo!" There is so much to be thankful for.
Now for a silly game (no point to it except having fun): Gumdrop on a String. You need a ball of string, a needle with a large eye, and a bag of large gumdrops. For every pair at the party, thread a string about three feet long into the needle and draw it through the gumdrop, placing the gumdrop in the center. Have a pair of participants each put one end of the string into their mouths, and at the word GO, start to "chew the string." The winner gobbles to the gumdrop first, and of course gets to eat it for his pains. If you prepare enough strings you can have a play-off and a champion. It is probably the most hysterical game in all the world.
How about regrets — the failings of the past year and the resolutions to begin anew?
Almost everyone knows, or if they don't it is easily learned, the tune to the spiritual "I Want to Be Ready," an appropriate sentiment for the New Year which, after all, might be our last year. Knowing from past experience that it is much easier to own up to our failings and laugh at them together, at this party everyone gets a slip of paper with two lines written out for him to sing when his turn comes in this song. These have been worked out ahead of time.
The song properly goes like this:
"I want to be ready;
I want to be ready;
I want to be ready;
To walk in Jerusalem just like John."
Then follow various verses such as:
Solo. John said that Jerusalem was foursquare.
Refrain (all). Walk in Jerusalem, just like John.
Solo. I hope, good Lord, I'll meet You there.
Refrain (all). Walk in Jerusalem, just like John.
We change the solo lines and the names in the lines sung by all. Great hilarity is the result. Here are some of the lines we sing in our family:
To pray the prayer of Tidy-and-Neat Will earn me a fine gold front row seat.
If I obey and never once pout In Heaven I'll sing and dance and shout.
If I give up my old self-pity I'll live forever in the heavenly city.
If I work hard and give up sloth In Heaven there'll be no work to loathe.
If I keep calm, be patient and good I'll be forever in a heavenly mood.
If I don't shout or roar or groan I'll sing forever in a heavenly tone.
If I don't fuss or feather or fume I'll sing forever in a heavenly tune.
If I don't wag my finger and scold I'll sing forever in the heavenly fold.
This song and many more are found in the inexpensive song booklets available at book shops and music stores. Usually the difference between getting people to sing and not getting them to sing is having the words at hand.
The time for prayers must be gauged so that it will not tire or bore the children. This is extremely important. The objective of this celebration, if it is to be repeated every year, is to form in them a concept of New Year's Eve which combines joy with prayer — and the time of prayer must be as enjoyable as the entertainment. For most American families, adding a time of prayer to a New Year's Eve party would be an innovation; so it is wise to make it short the first time and familiar rather than strange. A leader keeps things going along well, and can explain the various parts beforehand.
"Come, Holy Ghost" is an excellent hymn to begin with, for even families not familiar with liturgical music know this. Then follows the Confiteor, recited aloud together, because we want to acknowledge our sins seriously as well as in fun and ask for the grace to begin again. Next, one of the older children can read from the Gospel of St. Luke, including the passage in the feast day Mass on the morrow. This passage (2:8-21) tells of the joy of the shepherds, the Gloria of the angels, and how the little Lord Jesus was taken to the temple on the eighth day to be circumcised and given His holy name.
Then, a Psalm that is especially delightful to children, with many thoughts and word pictures they will love to ponder. The group may be divided for the reading of the Psalm (97), and the leader may wish to explain any words that are difficult for the children.
If you tell the children that part of this Psalm is the Gradual for the feast day Mass in the morning, and show them the place in their missals, they will see how much those Psalm fragments in the Mass mean.
After a few minutes of silence to think carefully of the needs of our families and the families of nations all over the world, we may use the Collect from the Mass of the Circumcision for our prayer of petition.
Leader. O God, Who through the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary didst secure for mankind the reward of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may experience her intercession for us, through whom we have been made worthy to receive the Author of life, Our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
Then, beautiful and familiar and comforting, the Our Father aloud, everyone together. And finally, a closing hymn. If everyone knows the melody to the Laudate Dominum, it is a lovely ending sung in English.
Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.
Because His mercy is confirmed upon us:
and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
If the group does not know this, then "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" or another of the familiar anthems would be suitable for closing. A parental blessing completes each child's sharing of New Year's Eve with his parents.
Activity Source: Year and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956