Starting 2007 with a clean slate?
December 27, 2006 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for ideas or suggestions for some kind of ritual or tradition to do on New Year's Eve to really symbolize starting the new year off with a clean slate.

It's been a kind of crazy year for me with ups & downs, and I am hoping to put it behind me and give myself a clean slate to work with for the new year. I know this is true for some of my friends as well. I thought it would be nice to do something on New Year's Eve to really symbolize the fresh start the new year brings.

So, I'm really interested if any of you have traditions or rituals that you do on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day that symbolize the fresh start and sort of make you feel renewed.

One idea I had was to write down negative things from the past year and put them in a coffee can and burn them. But I'd love even more ideas as to how I can go into 2007 really feeling like it's a blank slate.
posted by tastybrains to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I think somewhere they eat 12 grapes to symbolize good luck on the new year...or in traditional case a toast of champagne always works!
posted by radsqd at 1:06 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: In Santa Fe they burn Zozobra each winter, which is more-or-less a "burning the negative things from the past year" ritual.

In Japan, people try to clean the house, pay off all debts, and clear all obligations before the new year. The idea is to start fresh. They also throw "bounenkai" (forget-the-year parties) with tons of drinking and eating.
posted by vorfeed at 1:16 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: --Do you have a real Christmas tree? Is there a place you can burn it, and toss in your negative things? (You might need a permit, so this may not be practical.)

--Buy a nice hardbound journal or sketchbook. On the first page, write your goals or important thoughts to keep in mind for the new year. Make it your "coffee table book." Look at the first page often, and use the rest of the book to write about your progress, other ideas, or just interesting things that happen to you throughout the year, including people you meet, movies you see, books you read, whatever. Making it a part of your daily life will prove valuable later, and you will always see page one to remind you of what you said was important.

--Along the lines of your suggestion of getting rid of the negative: Get a small natural fiber cardboard box, and natural fiber paper. Write down the negatives on the paper, and put it in the box. Now take a drive to a favorite place away from crowds: a cliff with an overview, a lake shore, a hillside, a hiking path, whatever. As your drive there, play your favorite positive songs. Take along a small shovel. When you get to your destination, take a last look at the list, put it back in the box and bury it. (Make sure you are not breaking any rules of the land you are on.) Leave your negative thoughts behind. Future visits to this place may remind you of how far you have come.
posted by The Deej at 1:18 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I like to clean house on New Year's Day, mostly to knock out the post-Christmas mess. I suppose there's some symbolic meaning to it, however.

New Year's Eve is all about getting drunk and playing the 1812 Overture at ear-splitting volume, though...
posted by jal0021 at 1:19 PM on December 27, 2006

don't the "polar bear clubs" take a dip in the surf? , you'll definitely clean your slate.
posted by stavx at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2006

I know of a particular W.African tribe that use a bar of black soap coupled with purified water (could be holy water if that is your 'thing') to bathe in. You do this outside your home (garden et al). You can either do this on the first full moon of the new year or say a prayer/chant a blessing whilst undertaking the process.

Would ask my Mother about the finer details but she is in the States on holiday so this will have to do.

I think it is a worthy endeavour to mark the new year through solid action and a great significator. I think I might burn something this new year. Not sure what yet though.
posted by mycapaciousbottega at 1:42 PM on December 27, 2006

Try a dish of black-eyed peas laced with ExLax.
posted by rob511 at 1:49 PM on December 27, 2006

Tie the pieces of paper with the bad stuff on them to helium balloons and let them float away at midnight.
posted by megancita at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, you've got some great ideas. I am looking forward to reading more if anyone else has some!

Try a dish of black-eyed peas laced with ExLax.

I'm the one who needs a clean slate, not my colon, thanks! :-P
posted by tastybrains at 2:00 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: The best New Year's ritual I've ever taken part in was burning a calendar from the year that was ending. Everyone stood in a circle in the back yard and tore off a part of the calendar, shared the good, bad, and ugly about the year then lit the calendar and watched the past burn.
posted by david1230 at 2:01 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: tastybrains, your idea was exactly the one I was going to suggest. In many Unitarian Universalist congregations, the first Sunday of the new year is traditionally the Fire Communion. People write down negatives or things they want to let go of from the past year and set them ablaze. If it's something you want to do in a group, you're in UU mecca with about a dozen congregations within 10 miles of you. I'm sure some of them will hold a fire communion. We're also a pretty casual and friendly bunch, generally liberal, non-proselytizing, welcoming to newcomers.

If you want to do it right on the holiday, how about outside, and bury the ashes afterwards? You could plant a seed of some sort in the ground with the ashes.
posted by booksherpa at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2006

I like to clean house on New Year's Day

In Rome, Italy there was a tradition of throwing large household items out of the window on New Year's Eve in anticipation of getting a better one (dressers, couches, etc.) Frowned upon recently due to the tendancy of parking close to apartment buildings. In a country setting I can see how dragging out that servicable but less than perfect sofa and burning it in the yard might make for a festive expression of optimism.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:09 PM on December 27, 2006

Another idea. Kind of a self-link as I did the logo for this:
Change for Hope.

The site is still being worked on, but the basic idea is to just start collecting your spare change all year and at the end of the year, donate it to a worthy cause of your choice. The site will be used for encouragement and information, and we will have PDFs of stickers to put on your change jar, but no money comes through the site. It's just to spread the idea, and it's the vision of my friend Michael.

I think it's a good way to keep in mind all year that there are plenty of people less fortunate than us.
posted by The Deej at 2:10 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: Throw out all your underwear and start fresh. Seriously. Buy 2-3 weeks worth of the good stuff. Remember, variety is the spice of life. Do not just shave the pills off the old ones! The ritual could include a New Year's Eve fashion show for your SO. If you have no SO, take this opportunity to hook-up a webcam and earn some some cash for the coming year.

Every year the wife and I re-enact our second date, New Year's Eve 1996, and order in a pizza, drink a bottle of Champagne, watch a romantic comedy, and snog.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 2:24 PM on December 27, 2006

Response by poster: I love the underwear idea. I don't know if I can afford to do that right now (my favorites are pricey), but I love it nonetheless.

booksherpa - I didn't realize that was a UU tradition - I am familiar with & like the UUs, but whatever I do, I kind of want to do with my close friends at our New Year's eve party. But I love that it's a real tradition.
posted by tastybrains at 2:36 PM on December 27, 2006

One wing of my family goes and climbs the nearest mountain.
posted by Soliloquy at 3:21 PM on December 27, 2006

But I love that it's a real tradition.

Anything that has meaning to you, and that you do more than once, is a "real tradition". I love that you've thought about what to do, and have people to do it with. I've had an . . . interesting year myself, and a fresh start is a lovely idea. Another addition you might consider after the ritual burning is to stand in a circle and hold hands, and contemplate the year to come. You could share wishes for the new year out loud.
posted by booksherpa at 4:01 PM on December 27, 2006

In the deep south we eat black-eyed peas for luck and collard greens for money in the upcoming year and then at the stroke of midnight we fire off guns. It's an incredible sound, let me assure you, as every redneck in the state blasts off a few dozen rounds into the air (not a good time to be flying, also there are people hit by falling lead each year however...).

It's also a good way to relieve past tensions. If you are in a place where you can do this and have access to a gun, you can shoot some symbols of the past year's troubles. Be sure to give a hoot and a holler as you do it.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:43 PM on December 27, 2006

More on the 12 grapes mentioned above. One of my favorite traditions.
posted by donpedro at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2006

i stay up till dawn every year to see the first sunrise of the new year. this is particularly lovely when at the ocean or on a tall roof. struggling to stay awake until the light comes is a very poetic metaphor, i think.
posted by gretchin at 5:12 PM on December 27, 2006

I've attended a number of Hispanic-centered New Years festivities. Some of the things we did were:

1. Carry a piece of luggage across the threshold of the main doorway 12 times.

2. Eat 12 grapes (see above).

3. Another Venezuelan tradition involving pennies that I cannot recall right now.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:22 PM on December 27, 2006

Haha! Google is my friend. From this page:

During the day, the kids get all the old clothes. They stuff them into an old shirt and pants. They make a life-sized doll. At midnight, we burn the doll in the middle of the street and shoot off firecrakers. The old is burned and we wear new clothes, especially yellow. This brings good luck.

At midnight, we also kiss everyone and say happy new year and all that. We also eat 12 grapes and throw 12 coins, like pennies, into the street, for good luck and more money in the new year.

One of the most curious traditions some follow is the "trip" around the block. Folks will pack a suitcase and run around the block. This is to bring good luck and a trip/travel sometime in the new year.

posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:26 PM on December 27, 2006

Best answer: In Japan it's tradition to give the house a very good cleaning for the new year. It's not as fun as burning stuff, but I find it very refreshing, not to mention good for the house and those who live in it. (A real good cleaning, under the refrigerator, behind the book case, clean the junk out of the faucet aerators, dust the top of door frames, etc.)

If you don't have the time for that I like the clean underpants idea, though I'd probably change it to clean linens and bedclothes. I think it would be nice to tuck in to he first night of the new year in fresh new Modal sheets.
posted by Ookseer at 2:01 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think we are going to proceed with writing down t hings we'd like to put behind us and burning them, along with a 2006 calendar.

I like the idea of starting the new year off with a clean home, so I'm going to spend the weekend cleaning and getting rid of things that have outlived their usefulness.

I also like the idea of starting a nice 2007 journal as a coffee table book, and starting it off with hopes and dreams and whatnot.
posted by tastybrains at 7:28 AM on December 28, 2006

Don't forget to make the first words of the new year 'Rabbit Rabbit.'
posted by Ash3000 at 11:24 PM on December 28, 2006

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