Sometimes I do an Advent retreat, or at least a good hike in the woods, to reflect on the major theme(s) of the year, and pray about what lies ahead. For me the approaching New Year evokes the theme of letting go, and laying hold. On New Year's day, our family gathers by the fire and quietly write notes. One note indicates something a person wants to let go of, and each person gives that to the Lord by placing that note in the fire. The other note represents that which we want to lay hold of, and that note is kept, with the option of reading it aloud to others for support. The tradition is based on the verse in Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.... Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Not everyone enjoys making New Year’s resolutions, and I think that is just fine. I spent many years resisting New Year’s resolutions — the whole concept seemed forced to me. But for the past few years, I have appreciated going through this list of questions to reflect on the past year, as well as this list of questions to help think through goals for the next year. Since the end of the year feels so busy to me, I allow myself all of January to set reasonable goals for myself in the coming year. By the time January 31 rolls around, I feel like I have a sober sense of direction and a clear idea of where I’m headed.
My husband and I also have a tradition of going out to dinner around the start of the new year with some good friends of ours. We’ve known each other for years, but are in a stage of life where we hardly ever see each other. So we really enjoy having this annual double-date — it gives us a chance catch up and reflect on the past year. We dress up a bit, making it our own little New Year’s Eve, even though we avoid December 31 (too difficult to find a babysitter). And staying up past midnight is strictly optional.
A few weeks ago, my husband handed me an intriguing article about spouses giving each other year-end performance reviews. We’re currently in negotiations about the possibility of doing this. Clearly, such a thing could be disastrous if conducted with the wrong spirit. But since our relationship is in a healthy place and since we appreciate being intentional and communicating well, I can see the benefits. In the same way that a good workplace performance review should not reveal any surprises (your supervisor should communicate well about any difficulties throughout the year), a spousal performance review should merely be an opportunity to take stock of the current state of affairs and (ideally) help move things along to the next level of blissdom.
In the positively frivolous category, I have made arrangements this year for all members of our family to own a pair of red undies — to wear for good luck on New Year’s Day. A tradition from my Italian heritage!