I spent the New Year’s Eve of 1996 and 1997 living in Ecuador. They have a tradition down there of burning the Año Viejo, or the Old Year.
Sometimes, they create an effigy of a politician, an ex lover or a former friend as a way of bidding good riddance. Other times, they just create a dummy to represent the year gone by.
In any regard, they stuff the dummy with firecrackers and drag it into the street. When the clock strikes midnight, the Año Viejos are lit.
The darkened streets are lit by the orange and red bursts of flame. The bangs of pops of thousands of firecrackers going off at once sound more like a war zone than a celebration.
There are cheers and laughter and kissing and frivolity, until the Old Year smolders into ashes in streets.
In this tradition, there is a real sense of letting go of the past. All that remains is the smell of smoke in the air.
In a very different experience, I attended a full moon ceremony last summer.
As part of the ritual, we wound our way through a labyrinth, pondering our intentions we wanted to manifest for the coming lunar cycle.
At the conclusion, we wrote those intentions — or goals — down on a piece of flash paper. We then set the fire ablaze, releasing those intentions.
These two traditions are at the forefront of my mind in this space right now, the week where the old decade is coming to an end and a new one is ushering in.
While one ritual is focused on the past and the other on the future, they both involve burning.
Now, it may just be my fascination with fire that is drawing me to the symbolism here, but I think it’s something more.
When I look back over the past decade, I can see there has been some great change in my life. Some of it was planned for and achieved, while most of it has been more of an evolution.
I got married, and in doing so, gained two bonus children. I changed careers — twice, lost my dad and have experienced a complete paradigm shift in many ways.
Most of it was completely unexpected.
As I look to the coming year — and decade — there are certainly things I want to achieve. At this point in my life, I am starting to focus on long-term health — in physical, financial, emotional and spiritual wellness.
While I am a firm believer in goal-setting, I am also practical enough to know I can’t control everything.
In fact, I’ve noticed when I want something too much, I seem to drive it away. Or I get paralyzed by the pressure of achieving it.
That’s why I’m focused on the fire. I’m tossing into the blaze all of those beliefs that have held me back and made my world small.
The ashes will fertilize the soil for the next 10 years.
Likewise, I’m lighting a match to my expectations for things to come.
I’ll let the smoke guide the way.