Year’s Eve was a pretty exciting time for a boy growing up in Bayonne, New
Jersey It was the only time in the year I got to stay up to midnight
and NOT have to go to Mass (we could do Midnight at Christmas but only if
we went to Church). We did go to Mass the next day although the priest
was always “iffy” about the feast we were celebrating!
But oh, that New Year’s Eve night! My mother had a box
of noisemakers at the ready, the tin kind no longer approved for use
by children, and added to that some pots and pans. My mother
also made tiny hot dogs, French onion dip (a la Lipton’s
instant French onion soup mix – we never actually ate onion
soup in our house), and got the herring ready because if you had herring
at New Year’s you’d be blessed for the year. I once
asked my mother why this was so (budding anthropologist, I) and she
admitted she did not know.
We had Guy Lombardo on television, and we watched the ball drop on
the Allied Chemical building in New York City (it was a lot lower
tech those days—just a guy, a rope and a Timex).
THEN when the ball dropped we ate the herring at just the right time, went
outside on the porch in our pajamas and banged a few pots and pans and blew
into noisemakers, scarfed down a few tiny hot dogs, onion dip with potato
chips (the rippled kind), and washed it all down with ginger ale.
It was hard work in those days to get a blessing, but fun too – you had to
get the ritual right but it was ok if you did not – we would bang pots to
practice days before and bring up a noisemaker to our rooms and hide it for
some very special occasion in the future not yet revealed—like one of my
sisters sleeping too late on a Saturday. And we usually had herring
in the fridge in case we needed a blessing boost.
The readings today and the feast are about blessings too – asking God to
bless us, telling us to bless one another be we persons, nations, kings or
kids. Even Jesus receives a blessing this day.
So too, Jesus blesses all those who see Him and he too, is blessed
by God in fulfilling His religious customs of ritual purification
– herring was definitely the easier way out for us!
So today we celebrate another New Year – the one recognized by the civil
government, the ecological New Year pasted the winter solstice and the calendar
New Year ending 1994 and beginning 1995.
We all hope for a blessing but the readings also remind us to WORK for a
blessing – for we are blessed in blessing, we receive peace when we make
peace, we are forgiven in forgiving others.
Happy New Year! I ask for your blessing and I bless you in return. May peace grow in our hearts and in our world.
Now where was that herring I bought?