There really is something depressing about New Year’s Day. While the previous evening is usually a time of champagne-enhanced excitement, the next day has a nasty habit of crash-landing into a giant pool of blah. When it’s cold and snowy in December, there’s the expectation of Christmas, parties abound, and lighted trees sparkle to keep all spirits high, but as the holidays come to a close, there is only the frigid realization that we are looking down the barrel of three straight months of … cold. As if to underscore the mood, (at least in the Northeast) God usually makes sure that the weather for the first day of the year is almost always overcast.
And don’t get me started on New Year’s resolutions: good-bye Ruth’s Chris, hello Weight Watchers. A part of me dies every January The First when the television commercials officially switch from celebrating the coolest new Playstation/Talking Elmo/Robotic Barbie Doll to earnestly communicating the sobriety of Jenny Craig. Yes, nothing speaks to the “joy of living” like responsible eating … good times, good times.
I myself am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions; I much prefer Lent when it comes to endeavors of personal improvement. For Catholics, the practice of sacrificing something of value for 40 days is like a New Year’s resolution, except with TEETH! If you cheat on your diet during the month of January, you are only letting yourself down… if you have a slip during Lent, you’re letting down God! (Hmm-Hmm-Haw-Haw!)
Okay, perhaps I am exaggerating the Almighty’s disappointment, but while most people I know ditch their New year’s resolutions within two weeks, most Catholics I know are pretty good about keeping their commitments the whole 40 days. I had a friend who once gave up swearing for Lent; not only was he successful, he even waited until the day after Easter to indulge his sacrifice, sensing that it might be inappropriate to celebrate the rising of our Lord and Savior by dropping the F-bomb.
Of course the whole point of Lenten sacrifice is to deepen one’s relationship with God, not to be get in shape in order to slip into the old swimsuit come summertime. That being said, there might be something to the dynamics of Lenten sacrifices that can be applied to anytime of the year… even New Year’s. After all, if we’ve been spending all of this time in active celebration of the Christmas season, a blustery day might not be the worst time to spend a little down-time with the Lord who has just come into our lives. Here’s hoping a renewed relationship with God can go a long way towards warming the months ahead.
Feel free to leave thoughts on your New Year’s Resolutions and on the tradition in general in the comments below.