Why do we do that? Catholic Traditions Explained

January 1 has a number of liturgical names celebrating a variety of events. Could you sort some of this out?

January 1, New Year’s Day, celebrates newness. Exactly eight days after Christmas, traditionally it celebrates Mary as the Mother of God. The Greek word for Mary’s motherhood is Theotokos, meaning “God-bearer.” Becoming official church teaching at the Council of Ephesus in 381, this is one of the most ancient and important titles given to Mary.

Eight days after the birth of a Jewish male, circumcision was demanded by Jewish law. So January 1 also commemorates the circumcision of Jesus. The Gospel reading for the day from Luke recounts the shepherds’ visit, the completion of the eight days leading to circumcision, and naming the baby Jesus, according to the angel’s direction previous to his conception.

Beginning in 1967, Pope Paul VI requested that this day also be set aside as a day of prayer for world peace. Each year, the pope issues a message encouraging prayer and action toward the establishment of world peace. So on January 1, as we continue to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, let us also turn to the intercession of Mary, the Queen of Peace. Happy New Year!