My grandmother lived alone in Boston. A widow for many years she had an unusual way of celebrating New Year’s Eve. As my father told it, she would pick a movie theater that was showing a film she wanted to see and go to the last show. In those days on New Years Eve the theaters would pass out noisemakers and at midnight everyone would sound off with them.
I don’t know if any movie theaters do this today; certainly when they did it then it was a wonderful way for her to celebrate. Seeing the old year out is a in whatever way chosen is a ritual that has been practiced by peoples of all times and places for centuries if not millennia. I enjoy my personal rituals, which include ringing all the bells in the house not to mention kissing my husband a midnight. Then there are the ones I also practice for New Year’s Day.
The old year now past holds both failures and successes. I need to take these into account as I do my rituals to begin the New Year. What are my expectations? My resolutions, my hopes and dreams for the next twelve months to come. Realistically I must base them partly on what has been as well as what I hope will be. The trick is not to limit myself by any failures nor be overly egotistical about any successes.
When I look out of my window in the morning after a fresh snowfall, the gleaming white expanse seems like a new beginning. The crusty, trampled, slightly soiled snow beneath is hidden from sight. Everything looks fresh, ready to be inscribed with the present. A new beginning is a blank sheet of paper, a bed newly made with clean sheets, the first breath of air I take when I walk out of my door. A new beginning is a wonderful opportunity.
However, I must remember that beneath the newly fallen snow are the remnants of the snows that fell days before. They lurk there like the mistakes, the mishaps, the opportunities not taken and the regrets I may have for all that remains undone. A new beginning must also take into account what has gone before. Mistakes and misses can be useful if I am willing to learn from them. If I am not, they remain like the old mounds of snow banks–freshly covered but still obvious in any parking lot.
I have always enjoyed my New Year’s Day rituals. I try to do a little of whatever I hope to be doing for the next year: corresponding with friends, calling family, writing a poem, cooking, and other activities that I enjoy. In addition I make two resolutions. Like most I haven’t always kept them. Still I keep hoping. My favorite activity on New Year’s Day is to look back, to see how far I have come, and to plan for the future. Each year brings its share of joys and sorrows, regrets and triumphs; I welcome them all.