On Beginning Anew

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on December 31, 2013

photo F. SconocchiaIt is the end of another year and beyond the celebrations and hoopla of the holiday season, it is a time to take stock of our lives, and for many, a time to think of what needs changing. The New Year often brings resolutions, and those resolutions are based on a reckoning with ones desires and expectations, ones hopes and dreams.  The New Year brings the promise of possibility, of starting anew.

In my office, I see many patients struggle with what is to come, particularly around the holiday season. This end-of-the-year holiday has been imbued with such significance that it often forecloses the possibility of thinking of what has been in our lives and what is to be. Yet there is something important to ends and beginnings, and to the rhythm of time and its’ movement through our lives. Important enough to celebrate it, or at the very least take note of it. Important enough to invite us to consider our lives and the choices that have shaped it – at least for the past year. Taking stock of what we do is something that many of us do throughout the year, yet at this point in time we are collectively called to think about what has been and usher in new possibilities.

Times gone by, the meaning of the Scottish song Auld Lang Syne, asks us to “take a cup of kindness yet” to remember old friends and past times. It is a song that encompasses the sadness and joys of our lives, and that asks us to continue and renew. Renewal is at the center of the New Year, as well as the letting go of grudges, misunderstandings and problems. The end of the year and the tic-toc of the midnight clock offers us all a chance to reconsider and do differently.

Perhaps this is why this particular holiday is celebrated across the world. In Scotland, there is Hogmanay and the tradition of the “first foots” who, shortly after midnight bring along a gift of shortbread or coal. After the New Year is rung in, the Scots consider it fortunate if a tall, dark and handsome stranger enters yours house. In Japan, there is Oshogatsu, the most important holiday of the year because it is a feast of renewal. The gongs of Buddhist temples strike 108 times at midnight on December 31st, presumably to expel human weakness. The Spanish eat 12 grapes on New Years Eve to secure 12 happy months in the New Year. The Italians eat lentils and sausages on New Years Eve to insure happiness and good fortune. The Dutch make bonfires out of their Christmas trees to purge the old and welcome the new. In Greece, vassilopitta is served and whoever finds the coin baked inside the cake is assured ongoing luck in the New Year. And here, at home in New York City, thousands gather to watch the ball make its one minute descent in Times Square- a tradition that began in 1907.

We all celebrate beginnings and the possibility of renewal, it is the endings that are more difficult, and yet beginnings do not happen without them. Endings inevitably include loss, and loss involves letting go, and here is the rub: one must let go to move forward. Beginnings do not begin until something ends. Every year at this time one more year comes to pass and another begins.

So here’s to the New Year and all that it may hold for you, and to letting go so that you may start anew.

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