New Year celebrations
By A. Ray Lee
We did little celebrating of the arrival of a new year when I was growing up on a small cotton farm in the early 1940s. It was just another day to give attention to the ongoing requirements of farm life. We were not aware of the big affair at Times Square in New York with its festivities, where multitudes gathered as the clock reached midnight on December 31. There were no champagne parties around our place that lasted well into the morning of January 1. For us, there may have been a few fireworks in the evening, but after they had died out all was quiet as usual.
I don’t remember anyone in our household staying up just to be able to say they had watched the new year arrive as I sometimes did later in life. Morning would come soon enough. The fire had been banked for the night. We had gone to bed at the usual hour to conserve the coal oil used in our lamps.
We rose at daybreak, without a hangover, to complete the morning chores and then moved on to the work of the day. There was always wood to be cut and split for the cook stove. The stack of firewood used to heat the house constantly needed to be replenished. The wood boxes must be refilled and enough logs split to last for at least a week.
We may have shucked and shelled a basket of corn to be used as chicken feed. The shucks would be saved for fodder. The dry cobs were saved to be soaked in coal oil and used as kindling to aid in the lighting of the morning fires. Various other routine jobs would require our time during the day.
If the weather was especially raw, we might be allowed to spend time inside near the fire where we constantly turned while one side baked and the other remained cold. Perhaps in the evening we got out the hand-held popcorn popper and gathered close to the fire to enjoy fresh home-grown corn as we warmed our feet before hurrying off to bed.
A little later in life, I remember we sometimes attended “watch night” services at the church which began as late as 9:00 pm and concluded with a time of prayer at midnight. Early in the service we played simple games, told stories, and joined in spirited singing. There were cakes and cookies on hand for breaks in the activities. We returned home, allowed to sleep in a little later than usual, and rose with a positive attitude as we faced a new year without feeling we had missed anything.
Our lives continued. By faith we looked forward to the year ahead trusting our work on the farm would be successful in providing for our needs as we trusted in the providence of God and worked in step with his plans.
For many years since those times I have tried to remember what James wrote in his Epistle: “Go to now, ye that say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:13-15)