OUR LIVES ARE MARKED by months, seasons, and years. To celebrate these turning points and rites of passage, we’ve created traditions and formal rituals. We celebrate birthdays, religious holidays, weddings, and graduation from kindergarten, high school and college. We memorialize those we love through funeral services. And every year, at the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one—no matter the calendar—we mark the turning of the year with the traditions of our cultures.
All around the world, the new year is celebrated with fireworks, drinking, and dancing. In the United States we put on parades, parties, and drop the ball in New York’s busy Times Square. People toast in the new year at midnight with champagne and kisses.
On New Year’s Day in northern countries, self-named “Polar Bear” clubs dive into frigid waters. In the U.S., families eat traditional “lucky” foods, such as black-eyed peas and greens, and watch football on television. It’s also tradition for millions of Americans to make New Year’s resolutions—promises to themselves—to make changes in one or more areas of their lives. They promise to lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, change jobs, go back to school, and be nicer to the neighbors. They will volunteer at their local homeless shelter and put more money into savings. Or they will meditate and practice yoga on a daily basis. Though it’s well known that fewer than 12% of people who make resolutions achieve their goals, people continue to make them.
Then, there are the personal and family rituals. For years, instead of making resolutions, I have made a list of goals. A list that I would refer to often during the year and use as a guideline for action.
When my two youngest children were still living at home, I began a New Year’s family tradition. On January 1st, I would tack a poster-sized piece of colored paper to the wall and draw five labeled circles on it: Things I Want to Do; Things I Want to Learn; Places I Want to Go; Things I Want to See; Ways I Want to Be. Then each of us would choose a different colored marker and write, in mind-mapped spokes of color, our wishes for the new year. For example, I might choose the red pen and write Speak Spanish or Tango as a spoke from the Things I Want to Learn circle.
We would leave the poster on the wall for a couple of days in case any of us wanted to add something to it. Then I would put it away, to be taken out and reviewed at the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve. How much had we learned, done, or seen that year? Had we managed to become who we wanted to be? Did we get to go to some of the places we dreamed about? Often, we were pleasantly surprised by how much we’d actually accomplished.
Now, my children are grown—well, except for my youngest who is a teen and wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything like that with his mother. So, this year, I decided to begin a new personal tradition. Instead of the usual list of goals, I wrote a long letter to myself. The letter was not about wishes, dreams, lists, or desires. It was a series of predictions for the coming year. With some questions in mind—What kind of year would it be? Would I move forward or change directions? What about my love relationship? Relationships with my children? —I tapped into a place of inner wisdom and answered those questions.
At the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve, I intend to open the letter and see how accurate it was. Then, on New Year’s day, I’ll write another. This could be fun!
Do you have a special personal or family tradition you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment below. Who knows? You could start a new world movement.
And may you have a prosperous and joyful new year.