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26 Hendon Lane, Finchley, London N3 1TR

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Posted January 5th, 2024

St Columba’s Assurance: A prayer for the New Year 2024


Alone with none but Thee, my God
I journey on my way;
What need I fear when Thou art near,
Oh King of night and day?
More safe am I within Thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand.

As we tiptoe into a brand New Year – with all its promise and hope, I’m delighted to share this quote from St Columba, found in one of my favourite Christmas presents, a book of Celtic Blessings, from a much-loved friend.

It reminded me of how we used to commemorate the New Year at our lovely church – a late night service leading up to midnight with the choir in full voice. Junior choristers, including the young Radnedges struggled to keep awake but enjoyed the tasty refreshments which followed.

It seemed appropriate to talk about traditional customs for ringing in the New Year when today it revolves around popping champagne.

In some parts of the world it’s all about eating grapes. Spain commemorates “las doce de la suerta – the 12 lucky grapes”.  Tradition holds that eating 12 grapes at the stroke of each chime of the clock – one for each month – will ensure good luck for the coming year, failure to finish all 12 in time would induce bad luck for 12 months.

Twelfth Night or Epiphany had its own custom dating back to old world Europe when special cakes would be served containing  beans, pecans, rings and ultimately tiny porcelain dolls  – to honour the arrival of the Magi bearing gifts for the baby Jesus.

New Year Celebrations in England are more dramatic these days with firework displays over the Thames to the toll of Big Ben’s chimes beaming from our television screens. One year, the Radnedge family decided we would be there in person.  It was exciting but scary too with so many people crammed together and infinitely disappointing. The noisy revellers drowned out each chime of Big Ben, so we stayed home ever after.

Our boys and grandchildren enjoy the age-old traditions of first footing and bringing in the New Year as my brother and I enjoyed in the Fifties and Sixties, when front and back doors needed to be open.  A dark-haired member of the family would leave from the back door and walk in the front carrying a piece of coal, to ensure our homes were warm for the coming year.

No champagne for brother, Mum and I.  We toasted with a glass of lime juice and lemonade,   everyone else had shandy, beer and lemonade!

We joined hands and sang Auld Lang Syne, (by Scottish Bard, Robert Burns) :

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year everyone – good health and happiness in 2024.

— Lynn Radnedge