I love beginnings—the clean slate of a new year, falling in love with a new creative project, the openness of babies and puppies, the pale green of spring.
I love that these days, new years really feel new. I spent most of my life in academia, where the new year really begins in August, so now I love being on the same calendar as the calendar, and I love the down time that I now have in the space between Christmas and the new year.
In recent years, I've taken this down time to reflect on the ending year and to set intentions for the new one. A couple of yearly rituals nurture this time of recentering.
Every December, Jamie Ridler sends her newsletter subscribers a set of questions for celebration and casting forward—questions like "What were you loving this year?" "What will you be glad to leave behind?" and "What do you want to invite into your life next year?" I copy these questions into my journal and write my answers to them as I fly to visit my family for Christmas, or on the flight home.
After Christmas, for the past couple of years, I've also had a little ceremony with my friends. It's different every year. The first year, it focused on me and the challenge of combining creative work with income-generating work. I gathered music, quotations from books, and objects that spoke to this theme. My friends brought over their own supportive things—the funniest may have been the candle that says "Pagame Pronto" ("Pay Me Fast!"). We listened to the music, read the quotes aloud, and incorporated the objects. Then we made cookies.
The following year, I invited them to bring their own theme ideas—their intentions and wishes for themselves. One of them thought of a project for us: we cut images and words out of magazines and glued them to votive candle holders, so that all year, we could light a candle for each of our themes. Then we made rice-krispie treats.
I don't know what we'll do this year. I think we might create something low-key. It feels like that kind of year. And that's the beauty of do-it-yourself rituals—they give us a structure and purpose that's the same every time, and we also get to make them new every time. So every year, these rituals carry the same meaning: they reaffirm personal reflection, intention, community—and sweet desserts! And at the same time, they offer fresh meaning every year, depending on what emerges from the creative process of reflecting, intending, and living. And baking.
As your 2013 begins, I wish you a fresh start, a supportive community, creative joy, centeredness, true intention—and many yummy desserts.
Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book, You Can't Put God in a Box: A Thoughtful Spirituality for a Rational Age, will be out later this year. Kelly is a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.