Many will say this is a friendship circle, as it is better known in camps and jamborees, but I prefer to call it circle of love, especially because our reunion theme was, Love Actually.
This is reprised every year in the clan to which I belong (my mother's side) as a ritual of leaving the old year and meeting the new one.
Fifteen minutes before midnight, we gather (babies are roused from their sleep, oldies are escorted in, and kiddies are herded from where they are galloping around) to form this circle.
It is the highlight of our three-day reunion, now on its 67th year. One may skip any of the activities but never this one.
While holding hands (folded right over left), we sing at least four songs: Dundungwen Kanto (an Ilocano serenade), to remind us of our roots; Let Me Call You Sweetheart (an old love song), to remind us of our forbears; Auld Lang Syne, to be in tune with the rest of the world; and Bless Be the Tie that Binds, to honor the One who keeps us together.
In other countries, this is replicated by clan members who can't be with us.
On this 67th year we surprised ourselves by singing spontaneously, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” (Lutkin's Sevenfold Amen), in a perfect four-voice harmony, just after the pastor among us said the prayer of thanksgiving.
“This is the only clan I know,” someone whispered, “who can sing this benediction at a drop of a hat, beautifully, without any rehearsal.”
Well, we grew up singing it in the church choir.
There is debate on when this circle of love started, but I don't remember nor know any other way of welcoming the new year. Friends have exciting stories about how their New Year celebration went, but for me, this simple, familial tradition matches none.
The circle of love is symbolic of how we uphold each other in grief, and how we celebrate together in joy.
How heartwarming to end and begin every year with family—people who worship the same loving Savior and have the same blood running in your veins!
Before we break out of the circle to form a rowdy and energetic human train, the oldest in the clan starts off the electric trail with one hand. He squeezes the next person's hand—and that person likewise does the same—until everyone in the circle is properly electrified.
Then comes a deafening countdown: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, Happy New Year! Now, quickly go under your right arm, turn around, and . . . whee!
Can grace be more electrifying?
(Circle photos are by Noel; clan official photo by Dannie)