What’s the Deal With the Baby?

Illustration by J.C.Leyendecker; Saturday Evening Post 1918; https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2014/12/new-years-babies/

I understand the imagery and all. Baby representing the birth of the new year. I get that. In fact, I quite love the idea of it and what it represents. Fresh new start, right?

The Saturday Evening Post had a longstanding tradition of featuring the Baby New Year on the cover of the last or the first issue of the year. This blog post features a wonderful collection of those Baby New Year covers by artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker.

My personal favorite is this one, the last weekly issue of 1918.

It was almost 1919. This magazine–which MUST have been planned months prior to it’s December 28th release–came out barely 6 weeks after Armistice Day–November 11, 1918, now Veteran’s Day in the U.S. But the image is perfect. A dove holding an olive branch, representing peace, being released from a cage; the child with an almost accusatory look on his face, as if warning us to never let such madness happen again; the bird itself almost reluctant to take flight, as if he isn’t quite ready to dare hope for the lasting peace he symbolizes.

Had Leyendecker already painted the image in hopes of a coming end to the war? Or did the editor of the S.E.P., after hearing the news of the Armistice on his radio, call him to beg for a rush job for the annual Baby New Year cover?

1918 had been a horrifically difficult year for the world, one that my friend would have been able to relate to. She and her family had one hell of a 2019. House problems, car problems, multiple surgeries for members of the immediate family, including one life-saving emergency surgery for her husband. She told me she was very much looking forward to putting 2019 behind her.

I get all that. My question is this: Why do we feel we need to wait until January 1st to start our journey toward a new life, a new attitude, a new self, a new world. We can be born anew on July 12th, or September 23rd. We can cast off the old Father Time and his hourglass on March 3rd, or October 31st. We can do it as often as we need, even once a week as at least one Christian religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), in part, observes its weekly sacrament service. Stephen E. Robinson, a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University explains it in his book, Believing Christ. “Fallen beings like ourselves,” he says, “need frequent opportunities for course corrections…” Therefore, the sacrament can be a time to cast off our imperfections, reaffirm our commitments, and keep taking steps toward a greater self.

Sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me.

Our stories this month are all about characters making life decisions. Each decision is different, spurred by different experiences and events. As with all good decisions, there is that moment of wondering what will come next while being completely satisfied with the choice made.

I think, in one way or another, you’re going to find yourself relating to each one.