Why Catholics needn’t celebrate New Year’s Day

The Virgin With Angels by William Adolphe Bouguereau

‘The Virgin With Angels’ by William Adolphe Bouguereau

The following is excerpted from a December 29 Crisis Magazine article by Dusty Gates:

On Friday, January 1, the secular world will observe “New Year’s Day.” The Catholic world will not, for two reasons. One is that we have a genuine religious feast day to observe, in celebration of Mary, the Mother of God. The second is that Catholics don’t find much use in celebrating the chronological movement from December 31, 2015 to January 1, 2016. Not because we are grumpy, and not because we are boring. Catholics don’t have much use for “New Year’s,” simply because we live on a different sort of calendar than the rest of the world.

The Catholic calendar is not progressive, in the sense that it does not continuously march on from one date to the next indefinitely, as does the secular calendar. The Catholic calendar is perpetually seasonal, cyclical, and repetitive. We like rote prayers, not just because we happen to have them memorized, but because we have accepted the rotary characteristic of our faith, our lives, and the world.  Shortened attention span created by technological gluttony and self-centeredness isn’t the only reason the secular world is bored by repetition. Fascination with the new is rooted in a worldview opposed to ours, which is enamored with the novel and dissatisfied with the static. Pope Francis, for example, has warned of “those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress,” pointing out that they are largely to blame for causing the very problems that many contemporary progressives claim to be solving (Laudato Si, 60).

The Catholic worldview is, instead, a sacramental one. If God is outside of time, then so too, at least to a degree, is our communion with him—firstly in our particular participation in the sacraments, but also in the rest of our lives as a continued manifestation of and participation in that sacramental communion. The Catholic life is in tune with eternity, and thus always has a quality of, and preference for, timelessness. “You turn man back to dust, saying ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night”(Psalm 90). St. Peter echoes this Psalm when he says, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:8b-10a). Human time has no bearing on the God who is creator and master of all ages.

And yet, on December 31, we find the world gearing up for what is proposed to be the “party of the year.” Is it evil? No, but neither is it a real celebration, at least in its connection with the calendar. If it is going to be a real celebration, from the Catholic perspective, it must be about something more. “There are worldly, but there are no purely profane, festivals,” wrote Josef Pieper in In Tune with the World. “And we may presume that not only can we not find them, but that they cannot exist. A festival without gods is a non-concept, is in-conceivable”

New Year’s is a definitively secular (saecula—“this age”) holiday. But, like so many worldly things, it can be redeemed. On The Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Catholics celebrate the one thing that is worth celebrating, and the one thing that makes other celebrations possible, fitting, and even necessary.

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  1. Father Karl says:

    Thank you for a very fine and scholarly article. It reminds me of the saying: ‘Let us be mindful of the sacrament of the present moment’.

  2. Excellent article….Why isn’t January 1st, the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation in Los Angeles /Southern California??????

  3. There is an awful, and perhaps demonic TV commercial concerning ‘the force’. When it begins, one thinks this is a reference to God because it says it is always present,and it controls nature. Then the viewer is shocked to learn the force is Ram trucks. I also found out that a new program on Fox is called Lucifer. Watch for yourselves and witness how the demonic is taking over our culture. God must be the center of New Years, and not drunkenness and football games.

  4. Why isn’t it a holy day of obligation? Because the new code of canon law says episcopal conferences can regulate the days of obligation, which is quickening the race to secularism. For over 1500 years the feast was the Circumcision of Our Lord, and now in the NO it is the Mother of God. The 12th day of Christmas on January 6th was the Epiphany, but now it is always on a Sunday. Anything to destroy the rich traditions which the Catholic Church once practiced.

  5. John Patrick says:

    The Bishop of Monterey refused to honor the Holy Day.

  6. For those who want to spend tomorrow, the 6th day of January, celebrating the Epiphany, rest assured there will be hundreds of Tridentine Latin Masses (TLM) said. One need only look up in their browser “traditio” and find a TLM directory covering all of the parishes in North America and parts of the rest of the civilized world. The directory will show parishes by their state/province, city, a general schedule, and a local phone number to call for more information. Unfortunately there are not enough valid and qualified Roman Catholic priests to go around and cover all of those parishes necessarily tomorrow, so call. May God bless You on your journey to His Sacred Heart. :^)

  7. Perhaps if they abolished all Holy Days of Obligation, the Parishes that are attended by minimalist Catholics will collapse, leaving behind only the Parishes whose members have an extraordinary love for God.

  8. It is truly sad to see how supportive the V2 modernists are in taking away Holy Days of Obligation just like the protestants. Know of any protestant or evangelicals Holy Days of Obligation?
    I thought the role of Church leaders were to motivate and lead their followers to attend and participate in religious services to draw closer to and please God; however on the contrary they do the opposite under the guise of making secular life easier, and consequentially easier to fall into sin having turned a little further away from God, missing out on some very needed graces by what they didn’t do (go to worship the Lord and worshipped a football, soccer, or basketball game instead). Oh I hope I haven’t offended anybody being so politically…

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