Watch Night / New Year’s Eve: Millions welcome 2014

Confetti fills the air in Times Square, from a bystander's perspective

Times Square in New York is showered with confetti just moments after midnight. Photo by Dave Hunt, courtesy of Flickr

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31: To all of our readers, from ReadTheSpirit, we say: Happy New Year!

As the Gregorian year 2013 draws to a close, millions around the world bid farewell to the past 365 days, welcoming the year 2014 with new hopes and resolutions. Alternatively known as the Western calendar or Christian calendar, this is the most widely accepted civil calendar worldwide. Whether you’ll be ringing in the New Year with your congregation’s Watch Night service or potluck, attending a party, logging in to a virtual celebration or just watching the New York Times Square ball drop from home, take some time to ponder over the old year and embrace the new.

CHURCHES, CONGREGATIONS HOLD POTLUCKS & “JOYFUL NOISE” SERVICES

The tradition of Watch Night began with Methodism’s founder John Wesley, who created Covenant Renewal Services in 1740. To this day, the United Methodist Church provides online resources for this holiday.

Additional meaning was added on the night of Dec. 31, 1862, when African American slaves gathered in churches to receive word of the declaration that they were legally free, as the Emancipation Proclamation became law. Many African American churches consider these historic events in their Watchnight services.

Other denominations use this time to “call” their members back to God, giving thanks for the blessings of the year past and praying for protection in the year to come. (The United Church of Christ offers a Watch Night poem.) Some church traditions mark Watch Night or Midnight Mass with services, potlucks, dancing, joyful praise and song. Services typically end just after midnight.

Closeup of glass half filled with champagne, another glass in background

Photo by Anders Adermark, courtesy of Flickr

RECIPES, DECORATIONS,
“ROCKIN’ EVE” AND MORE

Decorate for your New Year’s bash with help from Martha Stewart. Find her recipes here.

Running out of time? Rachael Ray offers party shortcuts and decorating tips.

An elegant New Year’s Day brunch is made easy with inspirations from HGTV.

The L.A. Times offers up eight champagne cocktail ideas.

Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy are lined up to host Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2014, and they’ll be welcoming celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Fall Out Boy, Jennifer Hudson, Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke and Blondie. The complete schedule can be found here. Information on watching the event livestream, from your computer or digital device, can be found here.

IN THE NEWS:
(VIRTUAL) HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As social media and virtual devices change the way people communicate, New Year’s Eve 2014 will be no exception: from virtual parties to a New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball app, users can now enjoy the event from the comfort of their own homes.

The New York Times reported on the growing popularity of “virtual” New Year’s parties, for which “attendees” can log in and chat with other partygoers, dance to the same music and even share photos via social media. Supporters cite the virtual parties as a great alternative to parents or others who, for various reasons, cannot go out that night—and, as a bonus, won’t add to the number of drunk drivers on the road that night. Alternatively, the 2014 Times Square Ball app allows users to experience Times Square in all of its six-hour, 20-minute glory, livestreaming the New Year’s Eve event without the filter of a network. (International Business Times has the story.) Users can also interact with attendees at Times Square, or even “talk” with the Times Square Ball, which claims its own Twitter account.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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