Rituals for the New Year (No, It Doesn't Have to Be Midnight!)
Rituals are a great way to set intentions for the New Year. We do many rituals every day, from brushing our teeth to having that first cup of coffee. But as the New Year dawns, we want to do something special - something that kicks off a shiny new, dazzling year and puts some positive energy out into the universe. Since we’re not celebrating in large groups and many of us will be on our own or only with those closest to us this year, I thought I’d share some ways to bring in the new year with cheer, positive intention, and reverence.
So here are some easy-to-do, inexpensive, yet memorable things to do to make the change of the calendar a wee bit special.
Make a Fire. Sitting around a fire honors the Fire Spirits and provides you with some excellent opportunities to hold a clearing ceremony. Many Native American ceremonies are centered around fire, with the smoke representing their prayers being sent up to The Creator in the hopes of receiving an answer in the form of abundance, health, or whatever was needed at the time. This year, we can write down on small pieces of paper anything we hope to release and put behind us, from old traumas, loneliness or heartbreak, to grief for those we have lost. One at a time, put each folded piece of paper into the fire, releasing the emotion to the heavens as you do. Send your intention of healing and putting these behind you as you watch the smoke drift up into the air. This same exercise can be done with a candle representing fire and just as effectively. Just make sure to use a fire-safe bowl or surface around the candle as you burn your paper.
Drum or Rattle, Ring a Bell, Make Some Noise. Nothing breaks up and clears stagnant or negative energy like sound. What if you don’t have a drum or bells? Use a pot and a wooden spoon, clap your hands, sing out loud. Make this noise in every room in your house while setting the intention to remove all of the negative and stagnant energy in every corner, closet, even your garage and car - break it up and move it out. Then walk the same pattern and smooth the energy with your hands, a feather, a beautiful silk scarf . . . whatever you have on hand. As you do this, you’re calming the energy and setting the intention of peace, calm, and joy in your home (and your life).
Use Scent. Many of us burn sage bundles to clear the air. Science has shown that burning sage actually reduces pathogens in the air, so it isn’t just for show! And I think we can all appreciate how important it is to clean the air right now. Essential oils are also great to use, especially if you can’t burn anything where you are or you don’t have dried sage on hand. One quick ritual is to put several drops of essential oil on the palm of your hand (I love Lemon essential oil for this!), rub it into both hands, and then with the intention of clearing out the old year, inhale deeply three times. It’s amazing how much better I feel after I do this! Another way to use scent is to take bay leaves and burn them in a small bowl - burning bay leaves reduces anxiety and promotes sleep, so why not? And you can use any of these scents to walk through your home and clear every room, too. I have found an essential oil that is made with white sage. I mix a few drops of it with vodka, put it into a mist spray bottle, and clear my space with it as an alternative to burning sage. You can use incense, fresh cedar leaves or bark, pine needles from your holiday tree - whatever you have. This time of year I also like to have a pot of water that contains cinnamon sticks and whole cloves (orange slices and cranberries if you have them) simmering on the stove - it can last for weeks if you keep adding water to it. Fresh scents clear our minds of clutter and help us reconnect with our inner voice - our intuition - our inner wisdom.
Do a Candle Ritual. One of my favorite New Year’s Day activities is to burn 2 candles with positive intentions to start the new year on a hopeful note. I use one green (health, well-being) and one white (purity, cleansing) candle. I write down a short list of hopes for the new year (I use single words, like health, love, family, etc.), fold the paper small, and place it on a fire-proof surface. Then holding those intentions, place the 2 candles on top of the paper and light them. Use small candles, as you’ll want them to burn down completely until they go out on their own. When they have burned down and self-extinguished, your hopes for the new year are released to the universe to be fulfilled. This is my personal favorite ritual for New Year’s Day!
Open Doors and Windows. A Celtic tradition is to open the back door just before midnight to let out the old year and then just after midnight open the front door to welcome in the new year. They believed that it was the Spirit of the old year leaving the house and a fresh new Spirit entering the house to take its place. Some cultures open all the doors and windows to release the year and any energy that’s lingering in the home - much like we do when “spring cleaning.” Simply start at the front door, go room to room, open them all up and then repeat the walkabout while closing them. While walking through, set the intention of releasing the old year and welcoming in the new, crisp and clean year.
Start a Joy Jar. I also like to start the New Year off with an intention to express gratitude for everyday blessings. A joy jar can be a simple mason jar or perhaps a vase or bowl you already have displayed in your home. When something good happens, write down a short note, fold it up, and put it into your joy jar. The first note for me is always on January 1st and holds my wishes and hopes for the year. Then at the end of the year, on December 31st, you open the jar and read all of the wonderful things that happened throughout the year. You can then burn them in your fire or do as I do - put them in a small ziplock bag with the year on it and save them for the future - to be cherished memories once again.
I hope you are able to enjoy at least one New Year’s ritual this year - and that it brings you health, happiness, love, and joy and all that you hope for!