How to say 'goodbye and good riddance' to 2020? Try one of these age-old rituals
How to say goodbye to 2020?
What about: good riddance. Scram. Take a powder. Don't let the door hit you where the dog bit you.
In fact, we don't just want to say it. We want to do something about it.
What's needed is an exorcism, a cleansing. And that's where New Year's rituals can help.
"It's a way to purge yourself of something that's painful, removing something from yourself," said Lisa Lyons, a Teaneck psychologist.
Some years pass like a beloved grandmother, leaving cherished memories behind. Others are more like a hated houseguest — one that constantly raids the icebox, smokes in the bedroom, wrecks the family car, and tells inappropriate jokes to the children. We don't just want them out of the house. We want to fumigate it afterwards.
Fires, floods, hurricanes, politics gone haywire, a deadly pandemic: it hasn't been dull. We need some potent magic to make sure 2020 goes away and never comes back.
Some of our neighbors in other lands have a trick or two. In Mexico, families symbolically sweep the old year out the door with a broom. In Ecuador, papier-mâché effigies of troublesome people or things from the old year are stuffed with fireworks and set alight on the street at the stroke of midnight.
That might do for a start.
"I think there are a lot of people doing cleansing rituals," said Christopher Midose, astrologer, student of the metaphysical and co-owner of Earth Spirit New Age Center in Red Bank.
A lot of customers this year, he says, are asking about purgatives and protections. Anything that can banish the bad juju of 2020, and promote a happier 2021.
But you don't have to believe in the supernatural to benefit from ritual.
All of us have our little rites and sacraments — formal ways of marking occasions and making requests of the cosmos. It can be something as simple as making a wish when you blow out the birthday candles. Such things serve a profound psychological and spiritual need, whatever your system of belief — or disbelief.
"I think rituals are really important," Lyons said. "Think about the rituals we all partake in — the way we celebrate a holiday, the way we mark our kids' first day at school, the way we save photographs. Rituals kind of organize your emotional self, the fragments of internal emotion, into something a little more concrete and cohesive. It's a way of remembering. Or forgetting."
And New Year's Eve is a prime opportunity: an annual milestone, freighted with significance about things lost, things gained, things regretted and hoped for.
Timeline of 2020 events:Everything that went wrong in the US, and it's getting worse
In Spain and Portugal, "good luck grapes" are eaten — 12, one for each month of the year, to ensure prosperity. In Greece, Vasilopita, a cake with a coin baked inside, is divided up among family members — the one who finds the coin has good luck in the new year. In parts of South America, people wear good luck underwear on the 31st. Red, if they're hoping for love. Yellow if they're hoping for money.
And in Scotland — and pretty much everywhere else — they sing "Auld Lang Syne," to bid the old year a fond farewell.
But — what if your farewell is not so fond?
In the "new age" realm, there are a number of classic ways to engage with bad energy. Any of which might be pretty good for this particular Dec. 31.
One, that is starting to gain traction even among the non-mystical, is the Burning Bowl.
The idea is to write each of the things you want to banish from the coming year on small individual slips of paper. Then you place the bits of paper — maybe marked, this year, with things like "COVID" or "wildfires" or "Tiger King" — in a bowl or crucible, set them on fire, and watch them burn. Did we mention you should use fire-safe crockery?
"You burn all those things on New Year's Eve," Midose said. "Just take it outside and burn it all. Imagine it leaving your life. It's called sympathetic magic. You're doing something in a ritual way to eliminate what you don't want. It's a really good release for people. I have a giant caldron I do it in, with groups."
One important point, he says: make sure you write things on your paper slips, not people. Not even the husband you're divorcing, not even your boss, not even the teen-ager who is making your life a living hell. "You don't want them to be in a car accident, and feel guilty for the rest of your life," he said.
What else? As long as you have your matches handy, you might try "saging" — burning leaves or clumps of sage at trouble spots in the house. You can get sage of several varieties, in bundles and in individual leaves, at Earth Spirit or any other new age store.
"Saging is Native American technique," Midose said. "All you need is a safe container or pot to burn the sage in. It can even be an old ashtray. It's something Native Americans would burn, traditionally, to keep the evil spirits away." (Be aware that some people consider this "cultural appropriation").
Saging is a matter of taste, Midose says. Some people don't like the smell. Others find it calming.
It is also a matter of instinct. You'll have to intuit how much to use, and where in the house to use it. "You really want to do it where you feel you need it," Midose said. "My advice to anyone doing this is to follow your intuition. Do it as much as you feel you need to. But you don't want to do it so much that you have soot on the walls."
You might try burning a black candle.
"You burn the black candle to rid yourself of negativity," he said. "If you want to get really creative, you can get a long candle and write on the side with a knife all the bad things in your life you want to get rid of. But it has to be a black candle."
That particular ritual, by the way, is best done when the moon is on the wane, he said. Which goes for other cleansing rituals, too. "The prime time is from the full moon to the new moon," Midose said. "The waxing moon is when you do manifestation rituals. It's for bringing things in. Waning is when you want to get rid of things."
Finally, if you have the Atlantic Ocean handy, you might try this. "It's an old Santeria one," Midose said. "You write all the things in the sand that you want taken away, and the tide comes and takes it out. You're giving it back to nature."
Not exactly seasonal for New Year's, he admits. But you could try a variation. "Write it in the snow," he suggested. "And then the snow melts, and you're seeing it all wash away."
Jim Beckerman is an entertainment and culture reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his insightful reports about how you spend your leisure time, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.