Does “New Years” Always Have to be “Happy?”

Today, four people said “Happy New Year” to me.

It’s mostly a casual greeting, like saying, “How are you?” Nobody expects a serious answer, but it’s a way of opening a conversation.  It’s friendly, and it’s nice.

But why “Happy?” Is that the ultimate goal for this year . . . that it’s a chance to be happy and feel good?  Does it imply that last year was unhappy, and this is my opportunity for a do-over?

silhouettes and cloudsI don’t think it’s that deep. But I’ve wondered if there’s a better word – something that really expresses what I’d like the year to be like.

I’ve heard people say “I wish you a prosperous New Year.” Hmmm . . . that might be nice.

What about a “Peaceful New Year?”

Maybe an “Adventurous New Year?”

I kind of like “Interesting” myself.

Bottom line: When we wish someone a Happy New Year, we’re really saying, “No matter what last year was like for you, I hope this new one gives you what you need to handle what the year brings you.”

It’s not really “happy.” It goes beyond that.

What about Grace-filled?

I looked up “grace” in the dictionary. One definition said, “Mercy; reprieve; favor shown in granting a delay or immunity.”

I have friends with cancer. I wish them a year of grace . . . reprieve . . . immunity.

I know people whose relationships are dissolving. I wish them a year of mercy.

Others are in financial struggle and can’t see a way out. Others struggle with depression or addiction.  Others are gripped with fear when they simply watch the news.

I want the best for them. I want them to have a year of support and reprieve and mercy and love and miracles and breathing room and refreshment.

I want them to have hope. And grace.

I think it’s OK to say “Happy New Year.” But I hope we’re a little more intentional about the meaning.  It means we care about someone, and want the best for them.

It means we’re wishing them a year of grace.

What word would you pick instead of “Happy?”

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books - including "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys," "I Wish He Had Come With Instructions," and "Dealing With the Elephant in the Room." (See Book page)

  • Gabi

    Just tuning into your blog for the very first time and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading post to post to post. I found myself waiting at CVS for my prescription to be filled, so I looked over to the books and lo and behold what do I find?

    People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them The Keys!

    I absolutely adore this book. I have laughed so loudly, that other people close by, who looked bored and frustrated, started laughing as well.

    Yes, it’s all in the perspective because the only person we can change is ourselves.

    All the “other crazy people,” of which I am totally surrounded by in my work and personal life, leave me speechless at times, but how you so very well described the crazies led me to see myself as well as identify others, while speaking truth.

    Loved it! Please keep on writing. I can’t wait to purchase your other books!

    This may become the book I read twelve times this year!!!!!

    • What a refreshing comment, Gabi – thanks so much for sharing! It’s encouraging to hear from someone that actually benefits from what they read. I appreciate it!

  • Melissa

    I think the phrase encapsulates all of the above — grace-filled, prosperous, everything. It’s a nice verbal shortcut that, between friends, harbors meaning that goes beyond words.

    • I think you’re right – and the key is that whatever word we use, it gains meaning when it’s in the context of a real relationship. Aren’t real relationships great? And finding the real ones is a never-ending process. Thanks for your thoughts, Melissa – always, always appreciated . . .

  • Jeanne Vincent

    Hi Mike, this hit a note with me. There are people around me that had a, “Not so Happy Christmas/Holiday and “New Year”. Their anticipation of looking down the road to 2016 as not being so fortunate either.
    I love the idea of the word, “Blessed”, truly there is none like it. Even though things may not be going so good, we are all in need of blessings. Blessings and prayer go together. Prayer has great power for those who believe. Next, there’s hope and support from family, friends and unknowns that know that things are not so good for those millions who are not so happy.
    So, I agree that the word, “Blessed”, fits much better than the word “Happy”! You can be BLESSED no matter what situation lies down the path for you in 2016 and beyond.

    • Thanks, Jeanne – Seems like “blessed” is the winner – I’ve had a number of people suggest that through emails, twitter, and in the comments here. Really good choice, I think. Thanks for sharing your thoughts – and hope you have a “blessed” year!

  • Greg Carlson

    I think the general idea you are shooting for is indeed “blessed/happy” as in the beatitudes (Matthew 5), or the “bless” of Rom 12:14 which is asking God to bestow divine favor on someone (note the context). But that sounds too easy. Say it in Greek in you want people to sit up and take notice.

    • Yeah, it sounds easy . . . but I think it’s still powerful. Good word choice (several people suggested it). It’s been about 40 years since I took Greek, so my pronunciation might be a little rusty . . . thanks for connecting, Greg! Always great to hear from you.

  • Jeremy Stephens

    I have wished many a “blessed new year”

    • I like that response a lot . . . packed with meaning. Thanks!