This is the last day of the year, and many people see the old year out with parties when they dress up, blow horns and beat on pans. These customs have deep, pre-historic roots.
In the 1970’s American Catholics were poled as to what feast days they wanted to keep as holy days of obligation. Most people wanted to keep New Years Day as a holy day of obligation, and that was a surprise, because most of them were not sure what the day celebrated. Their attachment to the day came down to them from ancestors who lived before humanity learned how to read and write.
What we find in studying prehistoric peoples in Africa, Asia, and America is that New Years recalled the creation of the world. Oddly enough, most peoples believed that at the beginning everything was chaos, and creation consisted in God or a number of gods bringing order out of chaos.
Even our Bible shared that ancient view. In its opening words it says, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth the earth was a formless wasteland. The original Hebrew words for “formless waste land” was tohu-bohu, which sounded like clothes being spun around in a dryer.
In Japanese lore the gods came down on Mt. Fuji from where they pushed back chaos, creating a holy place where people could live. With Hindus and Buddhists the gods came down on Mt. Meru. In the legends of Iraq it was a struggle between male and female gods that bought forth a world we could live in.
Tonight, if you make merry, you might bring to mind the thought that like people for thousands of years back you are recreating the original chaos out of which we pray God will bring holy orderliness.
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