Italians, particularly those in southern Italy, have a very old tradition which may seem wasteful, destructive and littering to us, but maybe it also has a lesson for us.
Years ago, as midnight on New Year’s Eve approached, the streets were completely empty: no cars, no pedestrians, not even policemen. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the windows of the houses and apartments would be thrown open, and to the sound of laughter and music, each member of each family would throw out of the windows old crockery, pots, pans and appliances, detested ornaments and even furniture, along with items of clothing and a whole catalogue of personal possessions which reminded them of something in the past year they were determined to erase from their minds.
It was meant to symbolize “letting go” of past unhappiness to prepare for the future. People believed that by throwing old things out they would also banish and forget the bad luck, unhappiness and bad days. They sought to drive away and eradicate any bad omens and any negative auras that had accumulated, hoping to prevent them from tainting the coming year. Then they could begin the new year fresh and optimistic, with space for the new things and good fortune in the year that was coming through their doors.
While it could be said that a new year is just another day, like any other, it does present an opportunity for us to stocktake; to review the past year, to identify pitfalls and triumphs and to set ideals and plans for the coming year.
For the blood-bought, adopted child of the living God, we recall how the omnipotent, creator God has intervened and undertaken for us, and we praise Him for the abundance of His blessings, even in times of difficulties. Then we look forward in absolute confidence to continue to serve Him throughout the new year and we renew our pledge to follow His will wherever, whenever and in whatever way He leads.
While we would consider the old Italian custom as wasteful, there are many things in our lives which we would do well to throw out, and indeed the Scriptures command us to do so.
Many times we are told to “put off” various characteristics of our nature and associated activities and 2 Timothy 2:21 gives us a good reason for obedience: “If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and FIT FOR THE MASTER’S USE”
As we begin this new year,
we would do well to again consider words which are familiar to us:
I beseech you therefore, brethren,
by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame,
and has sat down at the right hand of God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
My favourite quote, which I have adopted as my motto, was found written in the journal of Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians a few days before he was killed by those he was trying to reach.
“So live, that when you come to die, you have nothing left to do, but die”
Lord of the years that are left to me,
I give them to Thy hand.
Take me and break me and mould me
To the pattern Thou has planned.