Celebrating the new year as a family.

As this year dims and the next year cuts its teeth on the horizon, we prepare for the uncertainty of the future, knowing that our fear of the unknown is a terrible guide to dawn. The thunderstorm on our tin roof kept me from sleeping last night, brain a-buzz with the crescendos and staccatos of rain slapping the metal; meditations on the meaning of time and the calendar year fruitless as a tomato vine in January. Why must we celebrate another year? What are we celebrating– the good fortune to have survived 360 more days? What do the rituals and the parties and the kegs actually mean to us?

So far, still no answers on the sociological or cultural significance of New Year’s satisfy me. However, as a family, we can borrow a little from tradition and a lot from our own lives to forge rituals and symbols of meaning that make sense to us. Here’s what we welded…

1. Review the beauties of the year almost passed.

Patrick and I both took ten minutes to make a list of twenty things that God has done in our lives this year. After finishing our list, we shared the 20 things with each other and reminisced. We also discussed with Max the good things which had happened in his life over the past year, and spent a little time reviewing his favorite books, movies, characters, words, discoveries, toys, names, and ideas. You can turn this “remembrance” activity into a game or a project using the wonderful web. For example, Wondertime’s instant journal page is neat addition to your holiday scrapbooks, and it can be saved in PDF format. Yoiu can also make a 3-D Keepsake Display to commemorate the year past as a family. I used some rocks we found as the central theme, and then built visual stories around each of them.

2. Create something to represent your hopes for the next year as a family.

This is a great way to sit down and talk about what you want for the next year– what you wish to accomplish or learn or explore. Note everyone’s wishes in your family scrapbook (or create a Wish Jar from an old pickle jar filled with scraps on which family members write their wishes), and keep the wishes near the dinner table to explore in the future. What you create depends on your own tastes and fancies. You could make a 2007 Hope Cards book by writing one letter of the alphabet on 26 index cards, and then finding a word or phrase beginning with each letter to express a family “hope” for the new year. Rather than simply writing these words, treat your Hope Cards book like a gallery of “found art”, adding knick-knacks, photos, magazine ads, or comics that encapsulate these hopes visually. It might be fun to review these Hope Cards with your toddler in a few months, using them as flashcard reminders of your commitment and dreams as a family.

3. Get rid of the bad stuff and highlight the good.

Every family member should find an object of their own which they associate with something very negative from the past year. After dinner, wander into your backyard and build a bonfire. After reciting a family chant- play with nursery rhymes or popular songs to craft your own family chant- throw your object into the fire and let it go. Then put your physical reminder of your hopes for the new year in a place of prominence.

4. Put the little ones to bed and….

Turn on a little Otis Redding, light a candle, and, well, clean the kitchen- or do whatever gets you going as a couple. There are many great places to be at midnight, but none so great as in the loving arms of your husband or partner.

I acknowledge the quirkiness of some of my ideas, so I thought I’d share a few more opportunities for New Year’s celebration from sources otherwise unconnected to Alina’s neurons. Peep at Family Fun‘s games and activities for new year celebrations with children. Mountain Breeze’s New Year’s Recipes also includes recipes for kid-friendly punches. Play games, fortunes, resolutions, word search and more at BlackDog’s New Year Celebration. Just a note- my fortune for 2007 was Prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom, while Patrick’s was A plucked goose doesn’t lay golden eggs. Wow. Looks like a good year is on the loose. Make Resolution Stowaways with your older kids. Read a folk tale, like “The Magic Rocks and the Beggar”, which deals with New Year’s festivities. Most importantly, shower your family with love. Love is the best gift out there, and no one can ever get enough of it.