Bonne Année at the Gate of the Year

Bonne Année small fold-out card from Paris

Bonne Année small fold-out card from Paris

I adore the French tradition of sending annual new year greeting cards – if physical cards are sent at all – in lieu of cards for specific religious holidays.

Happy New Year

It’s not that you don’t see Christmas cards for sale in Paris; there are many. But the majority say Bonne Année, or happy new year. This feels so much more inclusive to me — not to mention, from a practical standpoint, much simpler when one has friends of multiple faiths.

The Gate of the Year

Notwithstanding the secular nature of Bonne Année, we recently watched a BBC documentary about the Queen and learned of a beautiful poem, The Gate of the Year by Minnie Louise Haskins. This British poet and academic published her poem (she titled it ‘God Knows’) in 1908. It gained public attention when 13 year-old Princess Elizabeth – now Queen Elizabeth II – gave a copy to her father, King George VI, for his Christmas Day speech in 1939. The UK was at war with Nazi Germany and the future was uncertain.

The King, a shy man with a speech impediment (memorably documented in the 2011 movie ‘The King’s Speech’), said, ‘A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.’

Toward the end of his speech, the King offered ‘a message of encouragement in the lines which … I would like to say to you.’ He then quoted from Haskins’ poem:

‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.” ‘

You can find the full text of the poem here.

As the French say, avec meilleurs voeux pour la nouvelle année; with all best wishes for the new year.

Clive and I wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful 2016.

Bonne Année card from French friends

Bonne Année card from French friends

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

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