Out with the old, in with the new: the Power of a New Years Eve ritual

As any addict can tell you, there’s power in ritual. Professional athletes understand this. Grads understand it. Church leaders employ ritual. Sports fans get it, too.

The function of a ritual is to make the abstract more real to us… to take something hard to grasp out of the ether, and feel it viscerally, in our gut, in our fingertips, in our senses. And, in sharing a ritual, we become more deeply connected to the people who partake with us – even through a gesture as simple as a hand-shake or double-kiss greeting.

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That’s why we love Cindy Filipenko’s New Years Eve ritual, shared in her Whistler Question column this week.

At about 11 p.m., we began the ritual.

Everyone was handed two envelopes, some paper and packages of Mystical Fire crystals. (Mystical crystals are chemicals that turn ordinary fire pit flames into an explosion of colour. They also make otherwise rational adults repeat the words “Mystical Fire” in scary, slightly echoing voices.) Everyone was asked to do the following: on one sheet of paper we were to write down the crappy things we wanted to leave in 2011 and on the other sheet we were to write our wishes and goals for 2012.

Everyone put pencil to paper and made notes, folded their papers and stuffed them in their envelopes with a sprinkling of mystical fire. We lit a fire in our fire pit. We set off fireworks that had been left over from Halloween. We turned on the radio to listen to the New Year’s Eve countdown. A couple of minutes before midnight we burned our grievances with 2011 and a few minutes later launched our hopes for 2012.

The damnedest thing was, it worked. The results weren’t immediate; in fact, they took months to notice. But the thing was, they were noticeable. It was if by decidedly saying goodbye to the messy moments that had marked the last half of 2011, I had made way for the positive to move in and fill that space. As the year rolled by I realized that some of the credit for a great 2012 belonged to the not-so-great 2011 whose lessons will hopefully stay with me for the rest of my life.

Whether you’re leaving a great year or a lousy one in the dust of 2012, what ritual might you introduce to New Year’s to make space for blessings, gratitude and awesomeness in 2013?

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