Start the New Year with a Letter to Yourself

Well, we did it again! New Year’s Eve is behind us and the New Year is upon us – hopefully all went well for you? Most of you probably threw a proper New Years Party - maybe even accompanied by some fireworks. All in all, for most of us the New Year’s celebration is a rather noisy and merry affair fortified by the proper beverages.

But then, beyond all that merriment there is another element of the ritual around Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the time in between. For instance, in the German vernacular the nights between Christmas and Three Magi or Kings (the last six of the old and the first six of the new year) are referred to as the “Rauhnächte” (“raucous nights”). The name is derived from the old-German word “ruh” (= rough, untamed). According to legend wizards and witches, during these nights turn into werewolves and threaten people and their domestic livestock. It was said that the spirit world was open and during these nights Wotan accompanied by the souls of the dead mounted a wild chase with the demons commanding the skies. Accordingly, the Raucous Nights were known to be especially dangerous to people. Consequently by happily reinforcing ancient heathen superstitions with Christian rites one customarily practiced all sorts of rites and counter spells as protection against evil: At home everything had to be orderly and neat and particularly no laundry drying on the line because that would attract the evil spirits to ride through the house bringing death and harm to its inhabitants. After nightfall women and children were not supposed to be on the street, house and stables were blessed and with the force of prayers, holy water and incense were protected against all evil. Noise, bell-ringing, cannon shots and masked processions were supposed to banish the demons.
At the same time, and if one knows how to, those days also offered the opportunity to take a peek into the future: During those days oracles were supposed to be particularly informative. In German speaking countries e. g. the tradition of lead pouring on New Year‘s Eve is very popular: the lead (or tin) is melted and then poured into cold water. Your future is then read from the shapes formed in the water in much the same way as reading shapes in tea leaves. Unmarried young ladies could meet their future groom at a road crossing at midnight however, they were not permitted to address the apparition nor gaze after it. The road crossing had to be left walking backwards and in silence, otherwise the young lady would be at risk to be abducted by the wild chase. And those who are so inclined may want to talk to the animals in the stables and ask them what the future has in store – unfortunately according to lore, they would drop dead immediately afterwards. A bit less dangerous would be the farmers’ weather almanac: Allegedly each of the twelve “Lostage” (= predictive days, beginning with 12/26) provided a prognosis about the weather for the corresponding month of the following year – 12/26 for January, 12/27 for February, etc. Originally the raucous nights already began with 12/21, the Day of St. Thomas not for nothing the day of the winter solstice and therefore the longest night of the year. It designates the beginning of a new annual cycle. Like everything new the beginning of the new cycle was considered to be weak and especially at risk and therefore had to be protected from bad influences until 6 January when the transition from chaos to order was thought to be complete and order could return.

Raucous nights, the time around year’s end and the beginning of the next year were always regarded as the time for introspection and contemplation: Saying farewell to the old that is not entirely in the past and concentration on the new that has not completely arrived is also in harmony with the by nature predetermined rhythm of solstice. I also believe that it is a good time to take stock with retrospection as well as for plans and aspirations. After all, all those well-meant New Year’s resolutions by so many at New Year’s Eve and New Year are not just by chance. It is not for nothing the time that many people, who are normally lazy about writing, use Christmas and New Years cards in order to send greetings and good wishes to friends and family.

Today I would like to suggest that you use the first days of the still young New Year for writing one or two letters to yourself. It is a ritual that can be well justified in a variety of situations but it fits especially well into this time of letting go and beginning anew. You best write these letters by hand – some therapists even think it is important to write them with the left hand if you normally write with the right hand, or the other way around – but I leave that to up you. Go ahead; choose nice attractive stationary and your favorite pen.

The first Letter . . .

. . . is a “letter to you from yourself”. This one is particularly important if you are already planning something especially important for 2013 – either something positive (maybe you are expecting a baby, are planning a professional change or a move) or something negative (a serious operation, a difficult exam or the expectation to be laid off). Obviously there is nothing against for you writing all that for its own sake. Just mention everything that happens to be important at the time, something that occupies your mind or your emotions, something that scares you or is of special concern, something you are looking forward to or any other thoughts or ideas floating around in your head. Simply consider it as something akin to a voluminous diary entry on the subject: Status, turn of the year 2012/2013. Don’t hold back. This letter is only for you and no one else will have access to it. Just put everything down that moves you – the good, the bad and the ugly.

After you are done, stick it into an envelope, seal it – a little wax from a candle will do. Pick a date when you are supposed to receive this letter - preferably prior to the impending (positive or negative) event but in any case prior to year’s end. Write the date on the envelope and deposit it in a place where you can retrieve and read it on that certain day. Or, even better, give it to a good friend for safe keeping with the request to return it to you in the latter part of the year or on a specific date or else even actually mail it to you (obviously without notice so that it comes as a surprise). You’ll be amazed how exciting receiving a letter from yourself can be!

The second Letter . . .

. . . is a “letter from the future”. In your imagination transfer yourself one year in the future. Imagine that during this year (i.e. up to New Year’s Eve 2013) you were successful in all your important professional and private endeavors. You have achieved everything you dreamt about and on 12/31/2012 you are looking back on a happy and wonderful year. Take your time to create a detailed image of this vision before your inner eye. Where are you? Who are those who are a part of your life? What are you doing professionally? What does your environment look like? How do you feel? What has changed since New Year’s Eve 2012? What caused these changes, who contributed to them?

With that image clear in your mind, write a letter to yourself on New Year’s Eve evening telling your today’s self how the (next) year went, what happened, how you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve (2013) and the happy memories of the year 2013. Just always remember that everything went optimally according to your wishes!

When you are done, stick the letter into an envelope and keep it somewhere where you can retrieve it whenever you want during the year. It will keep you focused on your aspirations and help you take small steps in the desired direction. And who knows, maybe even deploy a little (white) magic. After all, the turn of the year is always a magical time . . .