Celebrating the new year is biblical, but how you celebrate might not be. The nation of Israel celebrated their new year’s day every year, and they did so in the way God that prescribed.
As we all know, many of today’s New Year’s Eve parties are far from being biblical celebrations. We’ll address the unbiblical parties but before we do, let’s take a look at God’s prescription for how His people were to celebrate the first day of a new year.
New Year’s Day in the Bible
Our new year begins on January 1, but for the nation of Israel, the new year began in the autumn. It began in the month of Tishri, the first month of the civil calendar and the seventh month of the religious calendar.
Leviticus 23:24-25 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation…
Jewish tradition claims that this is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, but remember that is just tradition.
The biblical name for the day of the Jewish New Year is Yom Teruah, which literally means day of shouting or raising a noise. Yom Teruah begins the fall festival of the Feast of Trumpets and it is a High Holy Day. This day is more commonly called Rosh Hashanah, which literally means, “head of the year.” You won’t find “Rosh Hashanah” in the Bible in reference to the fall feast, because it derives from the Mishna, a Rabbinic writing of oral traditions that is often called the Oral Torah.
The Book of Leviticus is clear that the first day of the new year is to be a day of rest and a day of sounding the trumpet. As a High Holy Day, it would have been a time of resting in the Lord and remembering all that He had done for them.
Sadly, most of our New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations have little to do with resting in, or remembering, Jesus. They center around friends, fun, food, and partying. From New Year’s Eve “bashes” of food and drink to New Year’s Day unending football parties of more food and drink, most people aren’t thinking about Jesus at all.
Biblical or Unbiblical?
So while most of our New Year’s festivities are not biblically based, that does not necessarily mean they are unbiblical. The Jews were told to celebrate events, and we have liberty in Christ to do the same. However, the bottom line is that we should always attempt to have parties and celebrations that are fun and include God-honoring activities only. In other words, our gatherings should be such that they do not promote or generate sinful thoughts, words, or actions. It really all comes down to how we celebrate the New Year and how we behave at the parties.
That raises the question, is it okay to drink alcohol on New Year’s Eve? The answer to that question must be personally discerned. The Bible does not say that drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible does say that drunkenness is a sin. (see a more in-depth discussion on this: Is it a sin to drink alcohol?)
While it might be okay to have one drink, it is never okay to allow alcohol to control your thinking and behavior (and for some people, even one drink can do that). Let me say it again, any level of drunkenness is a sin. It is well known that alcohol, even in small amounts, can inhibit judgment and reasoning and can produce behavior that is not God-honoring. Therefore, great caution must be exercised, if one chooses to have even one alcoholic beverage. For some, it might be possible to have a drink and not become drunk, just like it is possible to fill your plate from the buffet table and not be a glutton (Just like drunkenness, gluttony is also a sin. For more on this, read: What are the Seven Deadly Sins?).
Whether or not to drink at a holiday party is a personal decision that should be discerned before one attends the party.
Start the New Year Off Right
We implore you that as you celebrate the close of one year and the beginning of another, do so with your mind focused on the One who has brought you through the past year and who opens to you another year of life. Keep Him in the forefront of your thoughts and it will be much easier to participate in and enjoy the celebrations in a God-honoring way.
With the Holy Spirit as your Guide, be responsible as you celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It is a well-documented fact that the winter holidays have a higher number of alcohol-related deaths and injuries than at other time of the year. Thanksgiving has the highest number of deaths and New Year’s Eve is second.
Plan Your Celebration Checklist
If you are attending a New Year’s Eve party that offers alcohol:
- Determine beforehand what you will drink.
- Decide to limit how much you drink (if you choose to drink alcohol) so you remain sober and in control of your mind, words and actions.
- Make sure you are traveling with a designated driver who is completely sober…or better yet, offer to be that driver and avoid any chance of alcohol-induced sin.
- Be prepared with the phone number of a cab service, if needed for yourself or others.
- Don’t let others drive drunk and endanger their lives of that of others. Be bold and take the keys from a friend (or even an acquaintance) who should not drive.
If you are hosting a party that offers alcohol, you have a responsibility for the safety of those you invite—both while they are in your home and for the condition in which they leave.
- Consider offering non-alcoholic beverages.
- If you do offer alcoholic beverages, take your responsibility seriously.
- Limit the alcohol consumption and be ready to stop anyone who is even slightly impaired from driving under the influence.
While drinking alcohol is not a sin, drunkenness is a sin and the behavior that results from drunkenness is sinful….and it can also be deadly. As Christians, we can’t “hide our heads in the sand” and pretend excessive alcohol consumption is not a problem. We must be willing to be a friend to the sinner and stop them from potentially hurting themself or another.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
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