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Catholic Activity: New Year's Day Ceremony



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New Year's Day was formerly the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, then it changed to the Holy Name of Jesus, but now it is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Regardless of the feast, this is a day of hospitality for most people. Here are some ideas for an open house for family members and friends. Included is a blessing of beer, and a renewal of one's baptismal promises, to commemorate the day of baptism. Some of these ideas can be applied to January 3, the actual feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.


The Church begins the New Year with the Holy Name of Jesus [Editor's Note: January 1 is now the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Pope John Paul II has restored the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to January 3.] Liturgically this great feast commemorates the first shedding of His blood for our redemption. On the same day, along with celebrating the giving of His Name Jesus, which means Savior, we also honor Mary's divine Motherhood. Today's Epistle bids us to circumcise our hearts, as it were, "to live soberly, justly, and godly in this world."

New Year's is a day of hospitality among many people, especially the French. In England it was a day set aside for godparents; and godcakes are still given to children on this day in many places. It should be easy to keep New Year's day as a feast on which we honor godparents and repay them for the responsibility they have assumed toward our children.

An idea is to hold open house and let the children's godparents drop in when they please. Have ready beer or ale for grown-ups, and a children's punch. Perhaps you might serve beer which has been blessed and pretzels for grown-ups, punch plus initial cookies for children. Pretzels, incidentally, were originally made in the shape of a hand by medieval monks who gave them to children visitors.

Blessing for Beer [Editor's Note: This blessing is from the older version of the Roman Ritual.]

This prayer attributes the power of brewing to God and asks Him to make the beverage beneficial to man. The father sprinkles beer with holy water and prays:

Bless, O Lord, this created thing, beer, which by Thy power has been made from kernels of grain. May it be a healthful beverage for men; and grant that by invoking Thy holy Name all who drink thereof may find it a help for the body and protection for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Renewal of Baptismal Promises Bring out their christening robes, if you have saved them. Reminisce about each child's baptismal day, which is his or her rebirth in Christ. With godparents and family gathered in the living room, light the children's baptismal candles, or light a holy candle for each child. When the candles are ready, the father presents one to each child and prays as the Church did at baptism:
Receive this burning light, and safeguard your baptism by a blameless life. Keep the Commandments of God, that when our Lord shall come to claim His own, you may be worthy to greet Him, with all the saints in the heavenly court and live forever. Amen.
Grown-ups and children repeat together their baptismal vows:
I (name - ) promise to renounce the devil and all his works and allurement.

Mother: The grace of God our Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us, in order that rejecting ungodliness and worldly lusts, we may live temperately and justly and piously in this world.

Then follows a Christmas song and the prayer of the day.

The Word was made flesh, alleluia, alleluia.

And dwelt among us, alleluia, alleluia.

Glory be to the Father and to the Song and to the Holy Ghost.

(Repeat first two lines)

Father: By reason of His very great love.

All: Wherewith He has loved us, God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, alleluia.

Father: Let us pray. O God, by the fruitful Virginity of the Blessed Mary Thou hast given to mankind the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may benefit through the intercession of her by whom we received the Author of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ.

All: Amen.

A New Year's Day ceremony takes only a few minutes, but leaves a memory that lasts a lifetime and builds a sense of security in children. It also focuses their attention on the wonderful gift of Baptism.

Activity Source: Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota