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“New Year, New Blessings”, and the Obsession With New Year Prophecies and Declarations

“New Year, New Blessings”, and the Obsession With New Year Prophecies and Declarations

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In a situation where the government’s actions fall short of addressing the masses’ needs, the ability to find perseverance and hope, fuelled by prophecies and declarations, serves as a psychological anchor to navigate uncertainties.

By Emmanuel Okoro

In several parts of the world, New Year’s Eve is a time to be enthralled by breathtaking displays of fireworks and festivities, marking the end of the year and the beginning of a Gregorian calendar. The air is filled with a collective sense of optimism and excitement as individuals bid farewell to the experiences of the past year and eagerly embrace the limitless possibilities that the new year holds. At New York’s Times Square, for instance, an impressive lineup of artists takes the stage to entertain and thrill the gathered crowd. 

As this mood of excitement permeates globally, there is also a distinctive focus on New Year prophecies and mantras. Thus, with most individuals, particularly Christians in the global south, there is streaming into churches to embrace the proclamations from their religious leaders during what has now been termed “cross-over services.” Another phenomenon vividly plays out on social media, with netizens posting “New year, new me” or “I pack blessings this year” mantras. These actions suggest that Africans, in welcoming the new year, are engaging in a process of starting afresh and turning a new leaf. This shared tradition has somewhat become ingrained in the very fabric of African societies creating an annual fixation on New Year prophecies and declarations, and one begins to wonder, what has led Africans to hold these New Year declarations in high regard? What is the basis for this tradition? 

This religious and – some might assert – cultural phenomenon is deeply interwoven into the continent’s rich history and traditions, serving as a focal point for millions of Africans. To understand the obsession with new beginnings, we have to understand that the African continent is deeply rooted in religion. Before the advent of Christianity and Islam, the continent had embedded traditions that have been passed down through generations, some of which often involve New Year rites and customs. For example, Benin City in Southern Nigeria hosts a lot of festivals, notably the Iguẹ festival, where indigenous Bini people offer sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of good health, success, and a bountiful harvest in the new year.  

Igue Festival, Benin City - Afrocritik
Igue Festival, Benin City | Source: Daily Trust

Despite the acceptance of religions like Christianity, Africa still holds on to certain cultural beliefs, which is reflective in the way we practice religion. However, this religious adherence hasn’t necessarily resulted in comprehensive socio-economic development that can rival first-world countries on other continents. For instance, countries such as Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria, Djibouti, and Niger rank among the top 10 most prayerful nations. Yet, these countries do not match the levels of development and progress often seen in nations like France, the UK, China, Germany, or the USA—countries that feature in the top 10 of the least religious nations. This often prompts reflection on the popular statement, “If the government does what it is meant to do for the masses, there would be less need to pray”. It is of no wonder then that with each new year, people carry out religious rites, as though to ease the economic instability and high inflation of the previous year. In a situation where the government’s actions fall short of addressing the masses’ needs, the ability to find perseverance and hope, fuelled by prophecies and declarations, serves as a psychological anchor to navigate uncertainties. 

Worship session jpg
Source | The Guardian

Perhaps, the fixation on New Year prophecies also can be perceived from a socio-cultural standpoint that is rooted in the individualistic aspirations of Africans striving for success. As such, individuals will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, even if it means seeking prophecies or declarations they believe will expedite the process. On social media, we listen to and read testimonies of people who actualised their goals by believing the positive proclamations over their lives from their spiritual leaders. However, it should be noted that this drive for success is so potent that even individuals who engage in far-from-moral activities are seen actively seeking prophetic guidance that would better their lives – even if it means endangering the lives of others. 

Notably, people, too, have become weary of discerning the divine’s plans for their own lives. In more ways, this reveals the lethargic nature of the average religious person. As Christians for example, several biblical scriptures support seeking and knowing God for one’s self. While Jeremiah 29:13 emphasises the need to seek God personally, Hosea 4:6 is a realisation that most Christians perish for a lack of knowledge. What is rampant is that instead of putting in the work to find God for themselves or study the holy books for their own edification and spiritual growth, they would rather entrust such responsibilities to religious leaders, perceived as the “mouthpieces of God”. 

This overreliance on prophets and their proclamations has resulted in several fake prophets springing up across the continent. In response to the rampant proliferation of prophecies, the Ghana Police Service, in December last year, issued a statement reiterating their stance against “doomsday prophets” promoting needless fear and panic within their prophecies. However, in hindsight, it is herculean to ascertain if a proclamation that is yet to occur can be certified as true or false.

Admittedly, the quest for new beginnings at the start of the year is not exclusive to the African continent. It is a universal human inclination found in diverse cultures with the widespread practice of New Year resolutions or the adoption of self-improvement tips. However, a critical examination of the outcomes raises a pertinent question: what has been the outcome so far? Despite the global acknowledgement of the significance of new beginnings, the tangible infrastructural and human capital development resulting from these efforts vary across regions. In Africa, the anticipated transformation doesn’t align with the depth of cultural and religious commitments to renewal.

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Looking at the year, a challenge lies in translating the collective desire for new beginnings into concrete actions and sustainable development. I believe that a potential shift in the right direction lies in proactive governmental policies and effective resource management. Otherwise, we will keep chanting New Year mantras while grappling with the past. 

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde


Cover Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash


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