News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

New Year, old beliefs
Religions and ancient traditions link holiday celebrations, renewal

By Melanie B. Smith
DAILY Religion Writer 340-2468

The Christian faith as practiced in the United States has few traditions connected with New Year's compared to other religions.

For instance, most churches do not offer worship services on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

In some communities, churches have "all night sings" or prayer meetings to welcome the start of another year. Some offer New Year's communion or ring church bells. Some denominations observe the day as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision.

But the chance for a new start or cleansing that many religions link to New Year's is something in Christian teaching that happens because of Christ's death on the cross. Many churches teach that change involving repentance and faith can happen any time.

"It does not matter what time of the year it is ... One can start a new life in Christ," said Justo Dorantes, minister to Hispanics at Beltline Church of Christ.

Other faiths, however, have ancient beliefs connected with the end of a year and the start of another. For instance, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebration of the new year, is a holy time when people reflect on their sins and wrongdoings so they can improve in the future.

Rosh Hashanah falls in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, in the fall.

The celebration starts at sunset the day before, and religious services are held at synagogues. A Shofar, an instrument made from a ram's horn, is blown on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

Huston Smith in "The Religions of Man" said religion calls the soul "to confront reality, to master the self."

The variety of activities at New Year's in the world's religions seem to show the importance of such efforts.

In Japan, some Shinto beliefs are connected with the New Year, which is observed Jan. 1 as in Western nations. Japanese people hang a rope of straw across the front of their homes for good luck. The idea is that it keeps evil spirits away, according to a Web site,

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