Shh, nobody tell all those revelers packed into Times Square, but December 31 is not the only party on the calendar. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, people around the world will be celebrating a New Year, whether it's 2555 or 5772. This holiday, think beyond the ball drop by incorporating one of these rituals into your celebration; for instance, you can...
Part Ways with the Past
It's hard to start the year fresh when your brain is cluttered with the unkind comment you made to your mother at Thanksgiving or the condolence note you forgot to send back in April. People observing the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, let go of this emotional baggage by doing Tashlikh, which literally means "casting off" and involves visiting a flowing body of water where they symbolically throw in the mistakes and sins of the previous year. Tend to your own emotional housekeeping by stopping by a local river and tossing in a few bread crumbs for every error you'd prefer to forget. It's just as satisfying as burning pictures of your ex—but with a smaller chance of setting your hair on fire.
2. Go Home
On the eve of the Chinese New Year, it's customary to plan a reunion dinner with extended families gathering under one roof for a multicourse celebratory meal. If you've just spent Christmas getting the details of Aunt Laura's political awakening and trying to escape the wail of Cousin Timmy's new fire truck toy, this idea might cause you to break out into hives. But remember your other family—the college roommate who was like a sister or the godkids you never see enough of—and think of the holiday as an opportunity to catch up with them.
3. Light a Candle—or Several
When January kicks off in earnest and daily hustle replaces holiday relaxation, you may need a reminder that joy can be more powerful than anxiety. During Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights that marks the beginning of the New Year, India is illuminated by lanterns and fireworks representing the triumph of good over evil. The next time a stressful email threatens to bring you down, focus on how brightly even a tiny flame can glow—or on this image
4. Watch Something Bloom
In Ethiopia, New Year's Day, called Enkutatash, begins in September when a long rainy period has just ended and the earth has sprung to life. Children celebrate by handing out bouquets of daisies in the streets. Even if you live in a climate where winter weather makes you doubt the possibility of rebirth and renewal, treating yourself or a friend to fresh flowers can serve as a reminder that spring will come again.
5. Visit Your Grandmother
Songkran, the Thai New Year's festival, is most famous for the massive water fight that takes over the country's public spaces, but the throwing of the water grew out of a quieter tradition: visiting older relatives and signaling respect by sprinkling their hands with a few drops of cooling water during the hottest season. If you want to make sure your elderly relatives and friends know you're thinking of them, offer to pick up groceries, send treats or simply give them a call. Want a conversation starter? Ask them to describe the wildest New Year's Eve party they ever went to—and prepare to see them in a whole new light.
6. Turn Your Resolution Inside Out
Naw-Rúz, the Bahá'í New Year's Day that occurs in the spring, marks the end of a 19-day fasting period devoted to spiritual recuperation. Many of us spend December in a whirlwind of holiday parties that make abstaining from anything other than the gym nearly impossible. But there's almost a week between the last Christmas cookie and the first glass of Champagne when you can do a mini detox. Think of it as a chance to try out those extreme resolutions—giving up dessert, kicking caffeine, saving your entire paycheck—which you already know you won't be able to commit to for an entire year. Sticking to them for a few days will give you something to celebrate on the 31st, not to mention a clean slate to get started with those healthy, sustainable habits that will make 2012 your best year yet.
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