It is a time of endings and beginnings, as we look back at what has passed in the last year and consider what faces us in the new. It is a time when we can say, "Enough of that," and set our sights on a new path. It is also a time when we store away in memory the best the year brought to us, to be brought out and savored when we need a boost.
It is also a time to look at what we resolved to accomplish in the past year--what actually happened and what still waits. Or perhaps the priorites changed and what once seemed important has fallen from the list.
In Germany, I have read, there is a custom of visiting those with whom one has quarreled and all of the past disagreements are mutally forgiven and forgotten. In this country, we need such a healing ceremony after the rifts of the political wars. I could use some of that custom in my own life too, to melt away some hard feelings. Couldn't we all, for that matter?
These thoughts float in my mind as we prepare for the annual bonfire. I cook food; the men gather wood and heap it up. The weather will be cold, the ground snowy when we gather at the fire to see the year out and welcome the new. Just before midnight, we will follow our custom of tossing bits of paper into the fire. On the paper are the problems and troubles of many people, sent to us by email and messages. Each paper lightens someone's burden, or such is my hope. As the smoke drift skyward, I will see the ashes of sorrows, pain and worry disappear into the clean fresh air of a new day, a new year.
So it is each New Year's Day; we begin with high heads and confidence. Life may beat us down as we trudge through the days, until finally we drop our cares again at the holidays and look with renewed hope. Somehow the thought of that cycle is comforting--no matter how bad things may be, there is yet one more year to look forward to, one more chance to get it right, and one more opportunity to celebrate this strange journey we call life.