Nevada SCBWI

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Does anyone have any cool rituals or traditions they do for the new year? For me, every new year feels like twelve pristine months that I can create the way I want, and I do the same little rituals every year. Here are mine. I'd love to hear some of yours.

1. Around the Solstice, I send out notecards I've collected all year. If, say, an employee was extra helpful to me at the DMV, even though fifteen people ahead of me treated her like pond scum, I always end our interaction by saying something along the lines of, "I really appreciate how kind you were to me. Do you have a card? I'd like to drop a note to your supervisor." I write to the supervisor right away, but then I record the event on a notecard and tell the person how much of an impact they made on me through simple...kindness, or whatever it was. I address, stamp, and file it away. In December, when everyone's harried and rushing around, I send these cards out. Hopefully it'll put a smile on each recipient's face. I think people deserve to know their efforts are appreciated.

2. In the week leading up to December 31, I compile a list of what I accomplished in the coming year. You read that right--past tense. "In 2009, I wrote two new books." Like that. I want to send a message out to the universe that I *already* achieved these goals, not that I hope to. When I'm satisfied with the list, I seal it in an envelope and clip it to the back side of the December page in a new wall calendar. Inevitably, I forget about it (which is the point). And on to number three.

3. On New Year's Eve, I take down my old calendar, hang up the new one. Then I open the sealed envelope from the year coming to a close and I celebrate everything I accomplished. I don't beat myself up for the things I didn't. When I'm done, I always tuck the list away somewhere. I never throw it away. Why? In 2003, I found the (extremely ambitious and basically absurd) list I'd written in 1998, and I was stunned to realize I'd accomplished every single lofty thing listed except for daily exercise and an organized house (but let's not get crazy, now, folks). It served as a reminder that the goals we set don't always happen within our ideal timeframe, but they do come true eventually if your intention is solid.

4. My favorite part of ringing in the New Year has nothing to do with champagne and uncomfortable heels and kissing someone you might not want to. :-) It's a Native American inspired Arrow Ceremony I first read about in the ultra fabulous Write it Down, Make it Happen, by Henriette Anne Klauser, a book I read at least once a year. But back to the ceremony. I actually start the preparation earlier, because I craft my own arrows out of pencils, which are representative of who I am--a writer. I make the arrowheads out of polymer clay and fire them in my craft oven. But really, you can go as simple or elaborate as you want, as long as you make the arrows with intention. I'm getting ahead of myself. I create six arrows. Three to eliminate things I no longer want in my life (procrastination is an example) and three for things I want to attract into my life. Death Arrows and Life Arrows, respectively. Native American lore has a person taking the Death Arrows to low ground and burying them, then taking the Life Arrows to the highest ground and doing the same, each time in a circle of tobacco and with great reverence for the ritual and a focus on the goal. My new millenium, Colorado version is similar, but without climbing a mountain at midnight or making the arrows with bird feathers. :-) I use ribbons, yarn, acrylic paint--whatever works, and it all happens in my yard. I uploaded a picture of my arrows from a couple of years ago. The rest of the ritual is after the picture:

So, although this is traditionally a Solstice thing, I like doing it on December 31. At midnight on New Year's Eve (or thereabouts, if I'm working at my non-writing job), I perform my own modified version. I make a big circle of tobacco in my yard. I enter from the north, look at each Death Arrow and really focus on what I want out of my life, and when I'm done, I step back out of the inscribed circle the same way I came, and I burn the arrows in a chimenea or my fireplace. I have a beagle, people. If I buried them, he'd dig them up--trust me--and that would bum me out. Then I inscribe another tobacco circle, but this time I enter from the south. I spend time focusing on the things I want to attract into my life with each arrow. When I'm done, I leave the circle the same way and "bury" them in a large planter. I like to think of it as planting seeds of intention.

This little ritual isn't religious or anti-Christian or controversial. Trust me, my devout Catholic little abuelita (grandma) isn't rolling over in the grave. It's just a way of getting in touch with the earth (grounding), with the power I have inside of me and universal mind (intention), and with knowing what I want (roadmap) and starting the new year fresh (shedding of the old). And besides, I have Comanche blood in my veins on the Sandoval side. ;-)

Okay, THEN I have champagne.

So what do all of you do to ring in the beautiful blank canvas of a new year?

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Comment by Ellen Hopkins on December 11, 2008 at 6:38am
Wow. I feel so.... uncreative right now!! I usually spend New Years Eve struggling to stay awake, and usually failing miserably. One thing I don't do anymore is make resolutions... at least not the kind begging to be broken. No more "lose 20 pounds" or "exercise daily" because these things ain't gonna happen. Not with my life. Not with my schedule. Not with my 12-year-old cheerfully baking cookies. Self-acceptance, it seems to me, becomes more and more important as we age. This is not to say I'll allow myself to add 10 pounds. I hate when the jeans won't zip closed.

I've rung in the new year in unusual ways I suppose. I had a (very bad) relationship in Indiana one time. His family always boiled and ate cabbage to bring them money. They're still living in the same ol' farmhouse, so don't suppose that ever worked for them. We have friends who always have a big party, and have traditionally allowed their teenage kids' friends to come over and drink, as long as they spend the night. I only stuck that out once. Drunk teens aren't a pretty sight (although they're great fodder for a YA novel).

I love your idea of sending cards to people who have shown small kindnesses. Excellent idea. The calendar thing also interests me. I would love to have those lists from the past ten years, where my career has done all I ever hoped for, and more. I also like the Native American tradition, although it's very time consuming. You rock, girl!

One tradition I do adhere to now is sending a New Year's blog, thanking my family, friends and readers for helping me achieve my success. It's important to acknowledge that we can't do this alone. I also spend a little time in the moments just beyond dawn, stepping outside my door to appreciate (hopefully) the snow, and (definitely) the beauty of where I live. Then I send a thank you to the Creator. Once, when we were still struggling, especially me, needing to know I COULD be a writer and help pay the bills doing it, I tossed a dawn prayer toward the Sierra. "God," I said, "if you could just see your way clear to help me realize a little success, I swear I'll work my butt off." I've been working my butt off ever since, so be careful what you pray for.

And I always have champagne.
Comment by Heather W. Petty on December 11, 2008 at 6:53am
Fantastic traditions! What a positive way to start the new year.

Traditionally, I take the week between Christmas and New Years off and spend the time writing as much as is humanly possible (or working on the writing I have... depending). My husband and I usually share a bottle of while New Years Eve (if he doesn't have to work) and just sit back and talk about goals for the year. Nothing set in stone or fancy. Just talking like we always do.

Then in the morning I make latkes with smoked salmon and sour cream, with eggs on the side. It started more as a way of using the smoked salmon we always seemed to get in one of those Christmas food crates that was sent to us. But now everyone kind of relies on the fact that I'm going to get up early and shred potatoes until I die. ahahahaa
Comment by Tracy Clark on December 11, 2008 at 11:15am
I have to admit, an upcoming new year makes me very introspective. I keep a journal (which has gotten me into a bit of trouble lately but that's another story!) and I'm always writing my intentions down for the new year. Like Linda, I swear I've been astonished at how often those intentions come to fruition. It's creepy, but in a good way. It really makes me watch my thoughts.

Anyway, last year I did something different. Instead of the same old resolutions that felt more like a burden than motivational, I gave myself one: To do my best. Of course my best changes from day to day and that's okay. As long as I could say I did my best I felt that I was on the right path. You know what? It actually worked better in all areas of my life than the long list of "shoulds" or "wanna's"!

I'm not really the go out and mix with a bunch of crazed, drunk people in public, so we invite them to our house . We have what's known as a "sweats party". Basically, you need to wear your comfy sweats or jammies or whatever, slippers, etc...and hang at our house drinking margueritas and eating mexican food. Then, before midnight we all head out to our fire pit and write down a) things we want to let go of, or b) things we want to accomplish, and put them into the fire. Watching them burn and float off into the ethers of the universe is very moving. It would not be unusual to jump into the hot tub from there with some champagne (my favorite drink).

By the way, one of the best books I've ever read at this time of year was: The Gift of a Year by Mira Kirshenbaum.

So, if you all find your way to Gardnerville this New Year's Eve, be sure and bring your sweats! I'll supply the rest.
Comment by Andie Mock on December 12, 2008 at 10:44am
Hey Lynda -

Those are AWESOME rituals! The writing down goals and looking later is eerily similar to mine. It is amazing how these things come about in their own time. Don't give up hope Ellen! We need hope!

Best NY eve parties was a "Come as You Were or Come as You Want to Be" party where people could chose to come as how they were their favorite year or who they hope to become, that could be a person like J.D. Salinger or some part of their own dream (a great YA novel).

As I recall, someone came painted green draped in green sheets as the Statue of Liberty. Another person came as the Catholic schoolgirl she was in 8th grade with the rosary in one pocket and Valley of the Dolls in the other.

We wrote down our goals and burned them in a fire ring and had magazines and poster board and glue so people could make collages of their dreams. At midnight we passed around a talking stick (Berkeley is great for this sort of falderol) and people said their funniest or weirdest story that happened to them. I wet my pants and laughed until my sides ached.

I'd do this again but we're all so much older and more staid now. Ugh. Then again, maybe we need this kind of cheap-o insanity all the more...
Comment by Tracy Clark on December 12, 2008 at 12:40pm
I swear Andie, the older I get the sillier I get.


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