By Lindsay Schlegel
Being in the world but not of the world means honoring civil holidays, while keeping our hearts—and our families—centered on Christ. New Year’s Eve may seem like a holiday that doesn’t have much appeal for young families like mine, who have bedtimes well before the ball drops. But really, this day is a great opportunity for fostering family unity.
On December 31 the last two years, our family has selected a patron saint and a word for the upcoming year. The first year we used Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Name Generator and Word of the Year Generator.
Last year, after narrowing our favorite saints down to a short list, my husband randomly put a chocolate chunk in one child’s dessert, and that person got to make the final choice. We also opted for two words—one from the generator, and one that had come to me in prayer about this selection.
These practices have been useful to our family because we’ve made a consistent group effort to learn from and grow in them. Our first year, our word was “patience” (my husband and I may have laughed when this is what the Holy Spirit gave us, via the website). When our kids struggled with waiting or being generous in spirit throughout the year, we reframed these situations as opportunities to grow in patience—something parents and kids alike were trying to do. We even heard the kids remind each other at times.
When I come across quotes by our saints, I take a few minutes to make them accessible to the family. I might display them on a letter board in our entryway, make a poster using Canva and the printing service at our local Walgreens (with a coupon, this cost about six dollars), or simply tape a piece of paper to the kitchen wall. In these ways, those of us who can read take in the saint’s wisdom multiple times a day, simply by going about our daily tasks.
We’ve also been free in sharing our patrons with family and friends. The first year, our saint was Saint Anthony of Padua. A dear friend gifted us a doll of Saint Anthony early in the year, so that we’d have a visual reminder of him on hand. Later in the year, my mother-in-law pointed out that our son would be graduating from kindergarten on our saint’s feast day—what a gift!
So this year, once again, we will choose our saint (or rather, have him or her choose us) and select our word. We’ll watch the clock countdown in London, since it’s more bedtime-friendly for our East Coast crew. And then we’ll look forward joyfully to whatever God has in store for us in 2021.
Your saint may be someone you’re familiar with or someone new to you. Likewise, your word may be gifted to you seemingly at random, or perhaps it has been weighing on your heart. Whatever the case, choosing one or both of these focal points for the new year is a helpful way to keep it holy and to draw your family closer together.
Teamwork makes the (eternal) dream work!