It’s getting close, it’s almost here. 2022.
The past two years have been pretty tough for everyone around the globe, and many of us are hopeful that 2022 will find closure and bring some light back into our lives, we are hopeful that the world goes back to normal.
In my Motherland, there is an old saying that how you begin the New Year is how you will spend it. Traditionally, I think it used to mean that greeting the new year with a wealthy feast will mean you will have a wealthy year overall, and having a meagre New Year’s Eve celebration will mean that the year will be meagre too.
While I am not superstitious to support that saying in a traditional way, I do believe firmly that it is all about your intentions and the energy, the flow that you bring into the new year. That’s why I would like to offer some ideas for meaningful, spiritual, if you like, ways to celebrate the New Year’s Eve.
What does a New Year mean?
Besides signing 2022 instead of 2021 and making resolutions that don’t work, what does it actually mean to enter into the new year?
The celebration of the New Year is not new. It’s been around for thousand of years and practiced by our ancestors all over the world. The celebrations differed from culture to culture and the time they lived in, but they all shared the same meaning of the new year: letting go of the old and welcoming a new beginning, rebirth.
New Year’s Eve as I remember
Growing up in Russia, every year on the 31st of December, I watched the women in my family start preparing an abundant dinner, sometimes as early as straight after breakfast. There were hot mains, sides, salads, cold snacks… A lot of wine too, and even something stronger.
By eight o’clock or so we would be ushered to sit down at the table and raise our glasses (with juice) to toast the passing year. We would pay our respects and thanks, sum up what was so good and bad about it, but always leave it at the good, and let it go. Then we would wait until the midnight.
At midnight, a bottle of Soviet champagne at the ready, we would wait for the president’s speech, followed by the Kremlin Clock chimes. We’d hold our breaths, making our wishes to the chimes and when it stroke twelve times before midnight, we would count each stroke from one to twelve and clink our glasses when the anthem played, congratulating one another for making it to the new year.
Then we would go outside to light the sparklers and watch the fireworks. We would go to the town square to take part in public celebrations or visit friends. The celebrations would go on all night long, until the morning. But the two most important, most special parts of the night would always be saying good bye to the passing year and welcoming the new year.
New Year’s Eve Today
To this day, this is what the New Year’s Eve means to me: beginning a completely new cycle of life, rebirthing to a new, clean slate. New opportunities, new chance in life. But you cannot begin anew without finding closure. So to me, it is an absolutely beautiful tradition to give thanks to the old year before welcoming the new.
While I do not believe in the old saying that you will spend the year exactly as you begin it, I do believe that your mood and general attitude towards it will somewhat set the tone to the new year. That’s why I always try to do at least some symbolic activities that help me get into the right mindset for the new year. Most of them are so much easier to do on your own, but I never get the privilege, so I just make it work the best I can.
You do not need to cook a feast to celebrate the new year, but you can have a meaningful little celebration that is spiritual and grounding. To help you create your own celebration, or ritual if you like, I have decided to put together a little collection of different things that I love doing for the New Year’s Eve or even the New Year’s Day. Hope you can find some that would mean something to you.
10 Low-key, Spiritual Ways to Celebrate the New Year
You may not have a lot to be thankful for in 2021, but it is important that you do not close the year in a negative attitude. Brainstorm and pick at least a few things that you can be thankful for this year. Write a list. It doesn’t have to be long, somewhere between 5 and 10 items is enough. Though if you go beyond that number, that’s ok too – as long as every item on the list is meaningful. Now go over that list giving respect and gratitude to every item on it. This is your closure.
2. Meditate and Set Intentions
Light some scented candles, throw some blankets or pillows on the floor to make it comfortable, turn on some meditation sounds and meditate. Try both observing your thoughts for a while and meditating to set intentions for the new year. You can also express your gratitude while meditating.
For an observing meditation, start breathing in and out as you normally do. Don’t force your breath into a deeper state if it doesn’t feel natural to you. After taking about 10 breaths (you can count them), keep concentrating on your breaths – in and out. If a thought comes into your mind, don’t dwell on it, but don’t try to shoo it away either. Simply acknowledge it by mentally saying ‘I am thinking about [whatever you are thinking]’. If you find that you keep thinking about it, acknowledge it again by mentally saying that you are still thinking about it. This way you acknowledge the thoughts and let them go instead of getting carried away. More often than not, the thought will go away. Just remember that the aim of observing meditation is not to clear your mind of any thoughts – it is to be mindful about what you’re thinking and detaching yourself from those thoughts.
Now to move onto the intentions, you can start mentally repeating them while still breathing in and out evenly, and focusing on your breath. The breath is the centre of your mindfulness, it is the corner stone that keeps you rooted to your body in the present moment; therefore, breathing is key. When you are done with meditating on your intentions, try to quieten your mind and take another 10 breaths before slowly opening your eyes.
3. Mindfulness Walk
Depending on where you live and what the weather is like, you may choose to take a mindfulness walk. There is nothing better then setting out on a quiet walk on the New Year’s Eve or even the New Year’s Day (which is my tradition now), and just observe the world around you and the world within you. If you can choose a scenic route in the forest, mountains or near the sea, lake or river, it may feel extra special to be closer to nature on a day like this. Skip on the music to allow yourself to be more present. But if you have a company, you can bring them along on the walk. You can either walk in silence, or talk. But if you choose to talk, make sure you keep your focus on the breathing and pay attention to the conversation.
4. Do Yoga or other exercise
This is more to do with healthy habits you would want to establish in the new year, but it can also feel quite empowering to exercise on this day. Yoga is my personal choice because it’s very grounding and helps to connect mind and body, but you may choose your own. You can make your own New Year’s tradition and who knows, you may even stick to it!
5. Choose a Word for 2022
Choose a word that would represent 2022 for you. You can do this as part of your intentions. Stick this word on your vision board or a digital wallpaper so you can be reminded of it every day. This will help to fulfil your intentions.
Note: my word for 2020 was ‘growth’ and 2021 was ‘clarity’. They both worked out beautifully, though I’ll be honest, the 2021 was a bit of a struggle. When I chose clarity, I had certain ideas of what it would look like, but it took an unexpected turn.
6. Write in a Journal
Make a special journal entry to close off 2021. Summarise your year. Look at what worked well and what didn’t, what you have learned or gained this year, things you loved about it and things you struggled with. Express your hopes and wishes for the new year, be open with yourself and don’t be afraid to speak your wildest dreams.
7. Say Goodbye to the Old Year
Whether you choose to do it officially by sitting down and raising a glass, like we always did, or just symbolically, say goodbye to 2021 – without holding a grudge. It may have been an unpleasant one, but I am sure it taught you a lot. You’re not the same person today as when you were starting 2021. The experiences – no matter bad or good – shape you as a person and unlock the wisdom. It is important to acknowledge that and be thankful for the growth opportunity that year had given you.
8. Welcome the New Year
You don’t have to stay up all night but welcoming the new year at midnight, even saying ‘happy new year’ to yourself will make it feel special. Get on a call with friends or family and make it over the line together, if you are physically apart. Don’t just go to bed in the old year and wake up in the new. Greet it.
9. Clear out your house/room
Whether you choose to do it on the New Year’s Eve or on the the New Year’s Day, this is a good way to end or start a year and literally get rid of the old to make space for the new. It may not be as festive, but it’s a great release and you will feel more productive and free.
10. Embrace Traditions
Whether local or from around the world, there are so many of them when it comes to the New Year’s Eve! Last year my neighbour told me of an old Irish tradition to open both the front and the back door at midnight to let out the old year and let in the new, and I thought it was beautiful. I tried it. There was a waft of cold, fresh air and next thing I know, the back door closes with a bang, leaving the front one open. I know it was the draft, but it felt truly magical, as if the old year retreated giving space to the new. Now for the first time ever, in addition to some Russian traditions built into me from birth, I have embraced the new traditions that I will pass onto my children. You don’t have to be superstitious or religious, or anything of the sort, to find meaning and beauty in traditions.
Research what traditions exist in your country or somewhere else in the world, and choose what resonates with you. There is no right or wrong in this case, it only matters that it makes the night feel special to you.
If you choose to try any of these or if you have your own, please leave them here in the comments! I would love to know how other people celebrate the New Year.