I fell asleep at 11:53pm with a Harry Potter book nestled into the pillows beside me, the spine still gripped in my hand. My husband snuck into the room and snapped a photo of me sleeping in my New Year’s Eve party wear—a sweatshirt, pajama pants, and tousled hair—then he shook me awake. To celebrate.
Regardless of the day’s early wake-up call, or the long afternoon spent sightseeing in Washington DC, or the kids in various stages of exhaustion draped across hotel furniture, we were going to celebrate the new year in our old way.
He packed a bottle of wine in the car when we left home a few days before, and then smuggled dinner rolls in a crumpled napkin out of a restaurant earlier in the evening. He poured the wine in a plastic cup and spread open the napkin with the bread in the center, while the rest of us roused ourselves into a state of awareness and interest.
The five of us gathered in a small circle on the floor around the bread and wine, as we’ve done every New Year’s Eve at midnight since the birth of our family, and we broke bread together.
We dipped the bread in the wine, and read a few Scriptures, celebrating the Eucharist on the floor of a hotel room hundreds of miles from home.
Early in our marriage, my husband decided the best way to begin a new year is to give thanks for the old one and invite Jesus into the coming one, by partaking in the blood and body of Christ.
Throughout the years, we’ve kept this tradition regardless of country or continent, annoyed parents or small, tired children, rowdy parties or sleep-inducing sightseeing trips. We’ve used apple juice and crackers, sparkling cider and crumbs, floors, counter tops, and quiet rooms in friends’ houses.
We’ve invited others in and sometimes, secreted away to keep others out.
It is a sacred and holy moment for our family, frequently punctuated with the grumpiest member asking, “Are we done yet?” We are so frustratingly human.
I anticipate this tradition every year, more than the dropping crystal ball or the fireworks or the kiss at midnight.
I look forward to ushering in the new year in remembrance and thanks. No matter how imperfectly we’ve ended the year, in sadness or joy, frustration or contentment, we gently set the previous twelve months in its place in our family’s story.
We put ourselves in our place too—behind a God who is good and holy and full of love for the version of us that enters the year ahead. A God who knows what will unfold.
A God who knows the frailty of our faith, and reminds us, through the tangible example of bread and wine, that He has already provided a way into the unknown.