New Year's Eve (or as they call it in the Caribbean, Old Year's Night) gives you an opportunity to await the New Year with family and friends or in quiet contemplation. "Nothing is so dear as what you're about to leave," writes Jessamyn West in The Life I Really Lived. If it was a hard year for you, you may not agree with her. Still, you can remember with gratitude the past year's challenges and joys: Both have made you stronger.
New Year's Eve has been celebrated for millennia, but not always on December 31. According to the History Channel, the Babylonian religious celebration of Akitu turned to a new year at the Spring Equinox. It wasn't until Julius Caesar synched the calendar to the sun instead of the moon in 46 B.C. that the New Year moved to its current timing a little more than a week after the Winter Solstice. In medieval Europe, that date often shifted to other dates to avoid any hint of paganism, but in 1582, Pope Gregory the XIII changed the calendar again, to the version we use today.
You will notice that some of this timing is rather arbitrary. So bear in mind that at any time you can close a chapter of your life that needs closing and turn your sights to a fresh start. Then again, how inspiring to have a moment in the year when we all take a look together at what can be left behind to make way for the new!
To Name This Day:
"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice."
— T.S. Eliot in The Four Quartets
"Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell. And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day."
— Etty Hillesum in An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum
"It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn't matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over."
— Paulo Coelho in The Zahir
Writing a "period log" in your journal can be an excellent way to bring the year or any period of your life to a conclusion. You get to choose when the period began: For instance, you may recall an important decision you made or a shift in your circumstances that led to substantial changes in many parts of your life.
Once you have chosen the period you want to explore in your written reflections, start describing what things have been like for you in this period, leading up to the present. How have your relationships been? Your health? Your creativity and vocation? Your spiritual aspirations?
If this period is coming to an end for you, identify the signs that have convinced you this is so. Or identity what you still need to do to have closure on it.
Do not be concerned, however, if you do not come to a conclusion. Somehow simply summing up a period in this way often moves life forward in mysterious ways. Try it, and see what happens for you.