Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year's Eve Tradition

In his first message for the new year, Pres. Uchtdorf reminds us that the Roman god Janus--the god of beginnings--had two faces. One, of course, looked toward the future. But another was always fixed on the past. 

When a new year comes, says Pres. Uchtdorf, we often try to move forward by making resolutions or setting goals. But it can be difficult to keep those resolutions if our energy is still tied up in regrets, old worries, or emotional wounds. The weight of those old troubles can fall on us as soon as we make the first mistake in keeping our new goal, and it's all too easy to fall back into stagnation. 

At the new year, he suggests, we need cleansing and healing as surely as we need hope. To reach our ambitions, we also need atonement. 

That seems to me like a wise way to approach a new year. And it reminds me of a tradition a wise family I knew in Ohio keeps. 

Every New Year's Eve, the Disons hold a big party and build a big bonfire. They play games and swap stories through the first few hours of the night, but as midnight approaches they pass out little pieces of paper and pens and invite everyone to write down something from the old year: some worry, some pain, some spiritual scab they're ready to stop picking at. And then all the guests fold their pieces of paper into airplanes or cranes or else just crumple them into a tight little ball and they all throw them into the fire. 

It feels good to do that. To give the backward-glancing face of Janus a reason to smile. 

It's been a long year. A heavy, hanging year. I don't know if I have the energy left to make a bonfire for my little family tonight, but I think I'll light a candle in a quiet echo of what the Disons do. 

Think we'll dedicate a moment to relief before we move on to resolutions. 


  1. I love the myths of Janus, All his stories are based around life changing choices, usually they seem to be very dramatic in legends.

    Having said that I have learned that some of the most powerful decisions we can make do simply involve throwing a problem into a fire and moving on, they are just the ones that take the most bravery.

  2. My family does this, but we use branches chopped off the Christmas tree to represent the sins/bad habits/worries/etc. that we're burning away for the new year.



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