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Mrs. Sharp's Traditions

Don't Wait for the Midnight Hour

December 30, 1987|SARAH BAN BREATHNACH

New Year's Eve is not an occasion normally associated with family and home-centered traditions. Being of sound mind, however, Mrs. Sharp has never desired to take her tots to Times Square to toot out the old year, tradition or not.

Yet the family can enjoy several warm and comforting homemade year's-end customs for a festive New Year's celebration.

Mrs. Sharp looks forward to New Year's Eve all year long. This is because at heart she is a dreamer, a planner and a prayer. Her New Year customs provide ample opportunity for all of these activities, as well as taking care of unfinished business. To Mrs. Sharp, a fresh new year provides as many possibilities as a blank canvas must have to Rembrandt.

In the late afternoon, everyone gathers together for a tea party and our family celebration begins, complete with paper hats, horns, streamers and confetti.

First of all, there are new calendars for each family member. For the children this year, there is "The Teddy Bear Calendar," "The Dolls Calendar," and the Shoelace Page-A-Day assortment ("365 Days of American History," "365 New Words," "365 Bible Verses for Kids").

For teen-agers and adults, an eclectic assortment of page-a-day calendars offer morsels of information, entertainment and inspiration: "365 Quotes, Maxims & Proverbs," "365 Sport Facts a Year," "365 Trivia Facts a Year" and the "1988 Executive Calendar." (All calendars from Workman Publishing, $6.95 to $12.95.)

Next, the family prepares to take care of unfinished business. Before we can welcome in the New Year, we need to put the Old Year's mistakes, regrets, shortcomings and disappointments behind us. Each family member writes down whatever it is he or she wishes to forget, and we place the small slips of paper in a shoe box. While it is not required to reveal what is written down, this is the perfect opportunity for past hurts to be forgiven and hearts to be mended. Often it is difficult for us to share our feelings of regret, or ask forgiveness of family members. This New Year's tradition gently provides the way to do so.

Next, with ceremony, we wrap the box with black paper, sealing in the sorrow and bad luck. While we hold hands and say, "Good Riddance," the box is placed into the fireplace to burn away the past. Everyone can then begin 1988 with a clean slate.

This joyous tradition grew out of a need to demonstrate to the children in a tangible way that we can put the past behind us and go forward with renewed hopes. If you do not have a fireplace, why not "bury" your family's 1987 disappointments in the backyard; or simply throw the box away. Trust Mrs. Sharp, this is a New Year's tradition which will please all family members. A ceremony of renewal, it provides much solace as well as positive memories.

Now it is time to celebrate! Surely 1987 was not just filled with disappointment, but much good. How to show the family? Mrs. Sharp goes to her Bible and takes out the family's 1987 Prayer List, written last New Year's Eve. Oh, how many of our prayers were answered! Wasn't 1987 a year of great blessings too! Keeping an annual prayer list is a marvelous way to demonstrate to children the power of faith and the miracle of answered prayer.

But faith without work is a waste of energy, the Good Book tells us, which is why it's time to write down our personal and family goals for 1988. In Mrs. Sharp's house, we prefer the positive activity of "goal setting" rather than resolving to change behavior. We can never begin too early showing our young ones that enormous undertakings always start with tiny steps.

Finally, it is time to toast the New Year in with champagne, sparkling cider and a very special treat, "Wish Bisquits." Do you believe in wishes coming true? Well, Mrs. Sharp does. She was delighted to discover the Fortune 44 Company's gourmet fortune cookies, "Wish Biscuits" ($4 a dozen, at gourmet and specialty shops). Each delicious fortune cookie comes with predictions that are truly inspirational food-for-thought. Since everyone should begin the New Year with a little luck and plenty of laughter, our "Wish Biscuits" provide the finishing touch to our happy, hearth-side New Year's Eve celebration.

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