1. Attend a Worship Service
Many faith communities offer worship services that allow for a time of reflection, contemplation, looking back over the last year, and looking ahead to the New Year. The United Methodist tradition has a variety of services:
a. Watch Night Owlah Services
b. Watch Night Vespers
c. Watch Night Vigil
To find out more about these worship services go to http://www.gbod.org/resources/watch-nightnew-years-eve-resources
If you do go, be sure to be ready to explain to little ones the reason for different parts of the service. If you don’t know for sure, ask one of the clergy after the service. They will be glad to help you.
2. Prepare a Worship Service for Your Family
Families can worship together at any time. Weekly or daily devotional time is a great way to stay connected with your children and know how they are processing their own belief system. A short time of worship together on New Year’s Eve could be the start of the festivities of food, games, and crafts.
Older children know about New Year’s Resolutions, but they may not understand the spiritual importance of pondering the high points of the last year and making goals for the New Year. In a setting that is surrounded by family prayer and scripture, they can explore their thoughts in a safe place. All you need for this time as a family is perhaps a candle to light as the presence of Christ, a Bible, and a direction to go. For New Year’s Eve you can discuss the following questions with your children.
a. What was the most favorite thing you did this last year?
b. Why do you think it was your favorite?
c. Is it something you would do again?
d. Who are the people you liked being with this past year?
f. How should we, as a family, make plans for the New Year?
This is also a good time to assure children that change happens, and God is always with them. Read one of your favorite passages in the Bible about newness and grace, or love or here are a few to choose from:
A. Psalm 98:1
B. 2 Corinthians 5:17
C. Lamentations 3:22-23
D. Deuteronomy 23:5
E. James 1:17-18
Pray for your children and your family. This prayer is from the UMC GBOD Watch Night Service:
we are grateful and hushed by the mystery of existence
as we stand on the threshold of a new year.
We marvel in your love and gracious purpose
woven into the fabric of our days.
With confidence born of your faithfulness
we offer our hopes and prayers:
for ourselves and all most dear to us . . . (everyone is invited to name those hopes and prayers for one another)
for the world, its peoples and its leaders . . . (everyone is invited to name those hopes and prayers for the world and its people)
for the mission and faithfulness of the Church
here and everywhere . . . (everyone is invited to name those hopes and dreams for the Church).
The Wesleyan Covenant can follow (for those of you familiar with this prayer you will notice that it has been updated):
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your hope and service.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be made also in heaven.
3. Dress Up
Being at home for the evening shouldn’t keep everyone from being in the party spirit, so dress up. This is a great time to pull out fancy dresses and ties. Children will get messy, and children’s clothes are to wear, not to keep pristine in a closet until they outgrow the garment. Now’s the time to be festive.
4. Food and Drink
New Year’s Eve is a time for delicious foods that are typically finger foods. How perfect for the little ones in your home. Bring out the favorite chips, dips, cheese and crackers – or whatever your family likes best. Balanced diets can even happen with party food – stay light on the sweets, and have a variety of cheese, fruits, and dips like hummus and salsa. Fizzy drinks are always a hit – sparkling waters or cider are perfect.
Celebrations just wouldn’t be celebrations without food and drink. Growing up poor, my family had the tradition of having ham and beans – usually the cheapest of the shelf. We would have a ham for Christmas, eat on it until New Year’s Day and then use the bone for the bean soup. I still make ham and bean soup for New Year’s. We also had boiled cabbage with a penny in the pan, which was supposed to make the new year prosperous. I once asked by Dad why it wasn’t working and he said he thought it worked every year because we were all together, we had a roof over our head and food on the table. What more could we want? Well, that wasn’t exactly my definition of prosperous, but Dad has always been a little quirky. There is an excitement attached with the food we share at celebrations with those we love. If you don’t have a food tradition – it’s maybe time to start one. Of course, tying any real power to food is not realistic, but the fun part of making traditions with your family is real.
Here are some traditions from around the world found on the Epicurious website:
a. Grapes – eating one at midnight for every stroke of the clock is said to bring good luck.
b. Cooked greens – kale, collard greens, cabbage, sauerkraut look like folded money.
c. Legumes – beans, peas, and lentils also symbolize money.
d. Pork – pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward with its snout.
e. Circular food – donuts, cakes. The symbol of coming full circle is good luck.
5. Party Time
Children love to party as much as adults. They also have trouble with behavioral boundaries when there is a lot of energy being exhibited by the adults in their lives. We should remember that our best decisions don’t always present themselves when we are out of our routine; children struggle with that too. So, before planning your family party, have an idea of what you know will move your child over a typical boundary and be there for them when they begin to show signs of not being able to self-regulate. A quiet conversation and hugs are most valuable.
The next few items are family crafts found on Pinterest.
6. Party Hat
Supplies: Paper cups, Tinsel garland, Ribbon, elastic or twine, Paper punch, Glue
Punch holes in opposite sides of the cup as shown.
Cut two pieces of twine or ribbon long enough to be tied under the chin.
Thread twine or ribbon through the hole.
Tie firmly to the cup.
Glue garland to edge of cup.
7. Party NoiseMakers!!!
Supplies: Empty water bottles, Ribbon, Glue, Beads, Dried beans, Rice, Bells, Paint, Toilet paper rolls,
Paper plates, Craft sticks
Decorate bottles or TP tubes or paper plates.
Fill with something that makes noise.
8. Photo Booth
Decorate a corner of your home with festive decorations and take turns taking silly pictures of each other. You might actually find one or two for next year’s Christmas card!
Everyone loves to sing and for this one night even “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” might be a winner. Think of new lyrics to go with the tune that might describe your family. Something like:
“The dads on the bus say Happy New Year,
Happy New Year,
Happy New Year.
The dads on the bus say Happy New Year,
all over the house!”
10. Ring in the New Year
Most little ones will not be awake at midnight – and, it’s probably a good idea not to get them too much off bedtime routine. But, on this night really celebrate your time together as a family. Lots of hugs and kisses. As you tuck the little ones into bed, remember that they are gifts from God given to you as a sacred trust. Let each of them as well as your partner know how you are blessed by their place in this world. Ask each person to also name the blessings they know each other to be.
There are so many ways to celebrate family and the New Year. It doesn’t matter if you go all out, or if you spend a quiet evening cuddled on the couch. What matters is the time to be together.
And so as we prepare for 2015, we at Sacred Stones Ministries, pray that you have a peaceful and sacred New Year.