All across the world tonight will be a united celebration of the transitioning from one calendar year to another (December 31st being the final day of the Gregorian year) .. even in countries that hold a different calendar or festivity date.
In preparation for the close of 2009 many will spend time reflecting and reviewing the year passing .. and as the day draws to a close acknowledge that a 'turning of time' is upon us, signalling a clean slate for the new year ahead.
Whatever our own personal ritual at this time of year this is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on the challenges, accomplishments, lessons learnt and those who shared to journey with us. Taking the time to write down those thoughts, and any behaviours or views that we found limiting, or that we wish to leave behind in the old year, can then be ceremonially burned or destroyed as a cleansing ritual .. reflecting the 'letting go' of the unwanted in order to make space for the new opportunities or new behaviours that will enter our life in the New Year.
New Year's Resolutions gives us an opportunity to declare our positive desires and dreams for the New Year .. acknowledging that we are at a new starting point.
Across the globe are many different traditions honouring this time of transition:
In the Jewish tradition (Rosh Hashanah) bread is thrown into moving water as a symbol of releasing previous years transgressions, as the bread feeds the fish and birds it reflects a way to connect to all of God's creatures.
In Bali all statues of deity are taken to the water for purification ceremonies the day before New Year; great processions of people walk to the river/ocean and offer prayers. Much noise is also made to appease the gods, and then on the actual day of the New Year (Nyep) the entire island is in silence as everyone prays and meditates on the coming year.
In China families clean their homes to release any traces of bad luck and try to pay all debts before the year begins. New Year's day is filled with parades that include dancing dragons which are associated with long life and prosperity. Money in also given in special red envelopes to bring good luck for the coming year.
In Italy unwanted possessions are literally tossed out of windows onto the street below on New Years Eve .. from toasters to couches .. and once on the street all items are free to others to collect.
In Japan the new year is a symbol of renewal. Starting in December Bonenkai or "forget-the-year parties" are held to bid farewell to any problems or concerns of the past year and to prepare for a new beginning. At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in a effort to expel 108 types of human weakness.
In Spain there is the ritual of eating twelve grapes at midnight on New Year's eve , meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year.
In the Netherlands bonfires are made from Christmas trees and burnt on the street with fireworks .. the fires reflect purging the old and welcoming the new.
And in Morocco the mythical figure of The Old Year is buried in the earth. Moroccans also pour water over themselves, their animals, the floors and walls of their homes to wash clean the past year.
For the Thai New Year (Songkran) birds are released from their cages to fly free and bowls of fish are returned to the rivers.
And the Cherokee spend the eve of the New Year in vigil on the banks of a river and at dawn immerse themselves seven times to emerge purified and new like the year.
Interestingly most NY festivities include lots of noise and fireworks, which comes from the belief that noise effectively scares off any evil spirits lurking about. How will you honour the turning of the year?