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Firing Up the New Year: A Ritual for 2023

poetry rituals wintersolstice Jan 18, 2023

For the past several years, a dear friend and I have gathered on the Winter Solstice to unburden ourselves of what we need to let go of from the preceding year, and offer up what we hope for the 365 days ahead of us. My friend gets a fire going in the firepit in her backyard, and we each take turns adding twigs and small pieces of wood to keep it glowing. Throughout the year we’ve written words and phrases—maybe a few paragraphs if it’s something especially hairy—on small bits of paper, which we can read aloud if we so choose before adding them to the flames. We then sit in silence and watch the smoke. We are the kind of friends who can do that, sit without speaking. Who knows what each of us is thinking? (Next year we’re adding drumming to the mix as I’m currently enamored with the practice.)

There is usually a poem (or two) involved. This year we used Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Burning the Old Year.”

As we say goodbye to our worries, regrets, and burdens, we also give thanks. As we utter aloud our hopes for the future, we give thanks. For what was, and what will be. There might be a few tears, and always some words of encouragement or congratulations. Mostly there is warmth, and wonder, and welcome.

What rituals do you have for transitioning into a new year?

 —Amy Lyles Wilson, Wisdom Tree Mentor and Instructor,

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   

Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   

transparent scarlet paper,

sizzle like moth wings,

marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   

lists of vegetables, partial poems.   

Orange swirling flame of days,   

so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   

an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   

I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   

only the things I didn’t do   

crackle after the blazing dies.

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