Finding Meaning in the New Year

Happy New Year!

It’s funny when you think about it that humans celebrate the revolution of the planet. Really, the new year is an arbitrary point on our calendar chosen for the convivence of ancient people. Many other cultures celebrate on a different date or a different month entirely. But we’ve chosen this point to mark the ending of one year and advance of another.

So if the new year is an arbitrary point, is it worth noticing? As with many human rituals, the significance of the new year isn’t in the day itself, but in the meaning we ascribe to it through the customs we keep. If not noticed, the new year could just be another day, certainly not one to pay attention to. So why is the new year significant?

Ancient cultures noticed that time tends to be cyclical. Without fail, year after year, the season changed one to another in the same amount of time, from the darkness and coldness of winter to the fresh life of spring to the scorching hot of the summer and the changing colors of autumn, then back to winter again. Sure, the details varied year from year: one year might see a lot of snow and another none at all; one summer might be mild and another full of scorched sun and drought.

These seasons provided a natural compass for people’s lives, though, and provided a meaning to each season. One doesn’t harvest in the winter or plant in the autumn. If you miss your purpose for the season, you are liable to go hungry during the long winter. So it was that people, much like other living beings, revolved our lives around the changing of the seasons.

In our modern world where it’s possible to have enough food year round without most of us doing the planting and harvesting, I think this way of life is useful to recover. After all, what I do in this season of my life may not be the right thing next year, and it might not have been right for last year either. It takes wisdom and prudence to discover what the Earth is calling for us to do in the hear and now, to not miss the call of life lest we not have enough sustenance in the coming seasons.

So I think the new year, although it is an arbitrary choice of a date, is a good time to focus on what our life is calling us to in the moment. One way we do that is through our annual fire communion service, in which we think about what we need to shed for the new year. But you can do it right now as well. Think about what is calling to you right now and what is dragging you down. What do you need 2023 to bring? What do you hope you’ll be able to say at the end of the year?

Whatever this year brings, I am grateful to be spending it with each of you and looking forward to what 2023 has to offer!