I love the Winter Solstice! The shortest day of the year is magical and I love its importance throughout history to so many cultures. It starts the beginning of the return of "light", and the lengthening of days, and has long been viewed as the birth of the year. By celebrating the return of the Sun, the days between Solstice and the New Year are a luminous time period, when anything is possible. In England, the Twelve Days of Christmas were considered omen days which could be used to predict the weather in the coming year.
Much of the world celebrates the New Year on January 1st, according to the Gregorian calendar, with a countdown, kisses and the popping of champagne bottles. But did you ever wonder why the first of January? I read that it was Julius Caesar who, in 46 BC, decided to honor the pagan god Janus by taking that day as the commencement of each new calendar year - Hence the name "January." I love that Janus was considered to be the god of beginnings, ends, passages and time. He was always depicted with two faces, one towards the past, and one facing forward to the future.
Not all cultures from around the globe share the same New Year date, and often their date fluctuates with the lunar schedule. A few examples are the Chinese new Year which is in late January into February, the Jewish new Year in Autumn which aligns with the end and then begining of the yearly reading of the Torah scroll, and the Balinese New year of Galungan and "Nyepi" that happens in two cycles during the Lunar year, (in 2015, it first falls on March 21 -more about this holiday later). The same day celebrated in India as Ugadi. Also the "Persian New Year" or Nowruz, that marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year for the Iranian calendar...
On New Years Eve, I love the idea of breathing all that I would like to leave in my past into a burnable object and throwing it into a fire... freeing myself and setting my intentions to be the best I can be to myself and others... and wishing for peace and prosperity for all.
I thought it would be interesting to share some of the other traditions from around the world on how they enter the new year. I would love to hear any of your New Year's Rituals!
New Year's Day has a special significance, and is often called Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves from bondage, was read in Boston. Today, many African-American families hold "watch services" on January 1. The unique celebration, Kwanzaa, continues over seven days starting December 26, so the New Year's celebration is often part of Kwanzaa's way of reconnecting people with their African roots. Kwanzaa began in the United States in the 1960s, and is not celebrated in Africa.
Elaborate Fireworks are probably the most common form of welcoming the New Year amongst the cultures around the globe. However also consistent amongst many cultures is the belief that this is a time for settings things straight; whether it be a thorough housecleaning, paying off debts, returning borrowed objects, reflecting on one's shortcomings, mending quarrels or giving alms. In many cultures, it is a time to cleanse yourself physically as well, the ocean or local body of water, literally washing the slate clean.
However you choose to enter the year of 2015 I wish you the very best, filled with love, laughter and light!