I don’t ‘do’ New Year’s Resolutions – I don’t think they work.
We all know change can be a good thing. Indeed, if we are striving for a more whole body-mind-heart-and-soul filled way of being, it is not only good, it is vital to unlearn the things that hold us back.
I DO, therefore believe that creating intentions, and making plans is important. I just don’t think our ‘New Year’ is necessarily the best time to do it. Trying to start new habits in the depths of winter can be counter-intuitive, and doesn’t fit with my personal practice of seasonal living.
In this blog post, I intend to share a little background into the history and folklore of New Year. I will also offer alternative suggestions for times to make plans or intentions for our lives.
New Year – some historical context
Firstly – let’s acknowledge, celebrating New Year on January 1st is a societal and cultural construct. It is also separated from any connection to the land we live on and its cycles.
It’s also fairly ‘new’, in terms of history – Scotland, following the example of much of Europe, didn’t acknowledge January 1st as the New Year until 1600. The rest of Britain and its then colonies (including the soon to become independent USA) didn’t introduce this change officially until the Calendar Act of 1750. Before that, the New Year was marked legally on March 25th. This was also the date set as the calendar date of the Spring Equinox.
The act of making resolutions at New Year can be traced back to around 4000 years ago. The ancient Babylonians celebrated the start of their year by making promises to the gods. If they managed to keep those promises over the course of the year, they considered themselves favoured by the gods. They also celebrated the new year in March – for them, the beginning of the planting season.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the start of spring was considered the New Year in many older cultures. They were less separated from the land than we are in the modern West, so they likely paid more attention to the changes in the earth. The new growth and increased activity of the spring lends itself to a new start in a way that the depths of winter does not.
When you are living in tune with the seasons, indeed, spring seems like the best time to celebrate the new, and to start taking the steps towards making your dreams a reality.
I‘d like to note, as a bit of contrast :
It’s thought that Celtic cultures celebrated the new year at Samhain (Halloween) – which for them marked the start of winter. This fits with the way they viewed the new day as starting at sunset. Both their day, and their year started with sleeping, resting, dreaming and integrating. The conscious growing and active part after. Ultimately, it’s the same cycle, only the starting point is different.
Given all this, it seems strange that we are told by our culture that January is the time to make those changes, to fit with the start of the year dictated by the calendar as we view it. I feel it is another way that modern life JUST DOESN’T WORK FOR US, and sets us up for failure.
A Nature based alternative for creating change
There are many points in the year that you can use as a starting point for setting intentions and making plans:
Follow the Sun
If you want to use the sun as a guide (our current year, and the seasons are based on the effects of the earth making one rotation around the sun) then you have various options :
Pick the start of a season. There are the 4 main ones we acknowledge – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. You may want to follow the pattern of growth and hibernation, or you may just pick the season that seems right to instill the changes.
Need more than four points in the year?
There are 8 points on the Celtic calendar that were recognised as liminal times of year.These have been adopted (and some renamed) in the Wiccan faith. You may have heard them also referred to as the Celtic Wheel of the Year. They are Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lughnasah (or Lammas), Autumn Equinox, Samhain, and Winter Solstice. My own personal practice is largely framed around using these points in the year as markers for change.
Japanese culture recognises 72 micro seasons in the year. They are short spells, based on the arrival of seasonal occurences. Examples include ‘frogs start singing’, ‘wild geese return’ and ‘first cherry blossons’. I’m not suggesting you adopt the Japanese micro seasons, unless you live there. It does, however, stand as a wonderful example of a greater connection to the land and the changing seasons. Look to your own back garden or local green space and its micro climate. See if there are particular signs that might serve as starting points. Maybe you will pick when a particular plant flowers, or a creature shows up. Use your intuition to find the right time for whatever intention you are intending to birth.
When using the seasons you can use them as an annual marker for planning,. You can choose to plan season by season, reassessing at different markers in the year. Do what feels right for you.
If a year, or even a season seems too long, and you still want to use the solar model – remember, each day offers a new sunrise, and new opportunities (indeed, many recovery models use the ‘one day at a time’ mantra to help make things seems less daunting)
Beyond the solar, we have the lunar. The moon offers a wonderful opportunity to reassess and refresh every 28-29 days. If you follow the moon cycles, you will have 12 more opportunities this year to start anew – assuming you start at the dark moon/new moon phase.
A bit like the seasons, the moon offers different points throughout its cycle that lend itself to different actions – the waxing moon for outward action, the waning moon for inward reflection – a cycle that actually matches the natural cycles we go through as humans.
Take your lead from the patterns in nature, rather than by the clock, or calendar. You may find a greater appreciation of the natural world and is patterns. You may even find a greater compassion for all life, and all parts of yourself. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a goal that’s worth working towards.
Here’s to you making 2022 your own. Do it your own way, and start creating the life you want, the way you want.
Want to take a deeper dive into seasonal living? Why not sign up for my FREE seasonal living workshop at the end of January?