Danna D. Schmidt

Master Life-Cycle Celebrant®

Ordained Wedding Officiant

Funerals/Memorials Specialist

New Year Rituals

Labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church on Bainbridge Island, WA

Here we are…already 13 days into January! These past couple of years, the early days and weeks of the year have been all-consuming for me, as I’ve juggled work and time-sensitive projects. But I don’t let that stop me from the joy and fulfillment I get from enacting my January rituals, because the entire month of January has come to represent a time of contemplation and creative renewal in my world. In fact, the etymology of the word January, which owes its calendric name to the Roman God Janus, tells us so. Janus was the protector of thresholds, doorways, and new beginnings. As then, so now.

And so in light of this shiny new threshold called 2017, I’ve created this list of two dozen creative strategies as a way to inspire you to adopt one, two or ten; and as a way to help you beat the January doldrums and infuse these early days of the year with meaningful ritual.

Word! of the Year – Theming your year with a Word! is one of countless ways to orient and begin your year anew, and it’s a ritual I’ve been actively engaged in for a decade. Not content to simply name and claim my year with a Word!, however, I also activate my theme by creating a tagline, a themed soundtrack and poem list, a vision board, an anagrammed word cloud, and many more other artistic activities.  

Joy Jar – This is an easy, daily practice for cultivating joy. If you don’t believe me, ask Elizabeth Gilbert.

Count Your Blessings – There are lots of ways to do so each day or week. You can start a gratitude journal, write on slips that go in a canister, etc.

Weekly Scare & Dare Box – Fill out 52 slips of both seemingly small and big, hairy-scary things you’d like to add to your year, and then select one a week for the rest of the year as a way to get your dares out of your head and onto the calendar.

Celebration Box – Every accomplishment, big or large, gets noted on a slip and put in an empty jar or box. At the end of the year, you have a fabulous record of all the most noteworthy things that happened to you the past year.

Collage – Spend an afternoon or evening collaging magazine images for a 2017 dream or vision board. I’ve been doing this for a decade and it works like magic!

2017 Love Letter/Declaration – Address a fan letter to 2017 as a kind of declarative of all you plan to claim and manifest this year. Do it again at the end of the year in the form of a farewell/gratitude letter.

Get Out & Go Inward  – Choose a park, a local labyrinth or other outdoor locale and plan to spend a few hours hiking or being in solitude in nature. Make this an early January tradition.

Reach Out – Begin a new year’s tradition of reaching out to a long-lost relative or friend via a handwritten note or phone call. Let them know what they mean to you. And then if you’re feeling bold, make this a monthly ritual.

Retreat Yourself – Don’t wait until the weather improves: carve out a contemplative weekend, day or even an afternoon for yourself each January for dreaming and scheming, and be sure to commit to a portion of the time being spent in silence.

Make a Playlist – I’ve been creating themed playlists and soundtracks since January 2010 that relate to my Word! of the Year. It’s become one of my favorite January rituals to conjure up dozens of good vibration songs that help me stay on track and in the groove. 

Urge to Purge – It may not be fun, but purging house and home in these early weeks is an innate urge most all of us feel. Take advantage of your inner impulse and set a certain January date as your annual winter Donation Day.  

Up in Flames – Nothing says New Year ritual like a release rite. Even something as simple as burning a handful of slips of paper, of what you’re letting go of, can be a cathartic way to release the old and usher in the new.

Make a Splash – Continuing with the elements, consider what water-based ritual you might want to adopt each January. It might be something as close to home but worlds away as an Epsom salt bath, as daring as the Polar Bear plunge, or as meditative as a trip to the sea. But consider how you might ritually dip a toe in water, near or far, as a way to soak up the restorative power of water.

Turning Leaf – This is a variation of a seasonal ritual I engage in often. Find a pleasing leaf and inscribe it (Sharpie, paint, embroidery thread, whatever) with the old year date and a word to describe that year. Turn it over and do the same for the new year – inscribing it with the word or words you’re claiming together with the year. Over time, you can save these leaves (laminate or some other form of preservation) and hang them on a small tree in your home, make a garland of them, or press them into a book.

In(SPA)ration – Indulge in a mud bath spa treatment or Korean scrub at your local spa as an embodied way to scrub away the old and embrace the new in skin form.

Self-Love Cards – Make your own deck of How Do I Love Thee? cards. If you’re stuck for ideas, shamelessly curate sentiments from your friends and family. Make sure you have a full deck of 52 and then draw one a week as weekly sustenance….because YOU are awesome!

Book It! – Commit to a structured form of reading this January. Join a book club, start a book club, or even dare to cull your future reading inspiration from the recent nightstands of OprahBill Gates and Barack Obama. Or do what I do, which is to create a customized book list that pairs with your Word! of the Year. For example, my theme for the year is Dance Dance Revolution, so I’ll be re-reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and Gabrielle Roth’s Sweat Your Prayers: The 5 Rhythms of the Soul — Movement as Spiritual Practice, amongst several dance and “revolution” themed books this year.

aMUSE Yourself – Treat yourself to a January adventure in the form of a museum/gallery day, photography date, antique shop strolling or tourist attraction visit as a way to help you see the year with new eyes and inspiration.

New Movement – Consider some new form of movement – be it yoga, dance, or joining a local walking club – and commit to making that part of how you approach your year.

How Great Thou Art – Do as Rumi says. Take down an instrument…or a paintbrush, or a camera phone, and dare to try an art form unfamiliar to you. It might be daily art journaling, photography, knitting, or who knows?

Deepen Your Practice – Be open to spiraling deeper into one or more of your spiritual practices. If you do yoga, try laughing yoga. If you meditate, try a different form. As a way to do so with my daily poetry practice (I’ve been reading 3-4 new poems a day for the last couple of years), I am committing to choosing a line from each poem that moves me, collecting those lines in a bowl and creating an assemblage poem from it each month.

Service Project – Choose a new service organization to align your philanthropic efforts with or re-commit to volunteering or serving your chosen non-profit in new ways this year.

A Year to Live – Borrow a page from Stephen Levine’s inspiring book, A Year to Live, and approach your year ahead as though it were your last. What trips would you take? What legacy projects would you enact?, Which relationships would you repair? What incomplete paperwork would you get in order? Living your life from this approach helps carpe your 365 diems ahead in amazing ways.

In whatever way you decide to ritualize this grand new year, you cannot go wrong with Rumi’s imperative, which is to let the beauty you love be what you do this year.

What are you waiting for? The fertile ground of this new year sits in shy anticipation of your kisses!


Today, like every other day,
we wake up empty
and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and
kiss the ground.

~ Rumi

One Response to New Year Rituals

  1. I am on Vancouver Island and very involved in the Labyrinth community, we have more than 70 labyrinths on the island and several more being developed. ( see Vancouverislandlabyrinths.com) .As well I have completed half a Celebrant Program.
    The Labyrinth Society had just announced that the Oct. 2017 conference will be on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. A day later your post shows up on someone’s Facebook page that feeds into mine … synchronicity at its best.
    I read your years beginnings and found that I engage in all but 2 of them – off to a weekend buddhist silence retreat this weekend with friends , after which I will redo my vision board…

    Are you in Washington State? Seems we have many ways of being in common. We may host another labyrinth Pilgrimage on the island in conjunction with the conference – watch our Facebook page for our upcoming activities.

    Maybe our paths will cross or we’ll have a walk “beside” some time soon

    On the path


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