Like most people, I see the start of a new year as providing an opportunity to make a fresh start in some areas of my life. I haven’t made any official resolutions this year, but I did sign up for a 365 day meditation challenge, I mean to finally get back to exercising regularly, I want to eat more healthfully, and I’ve been planning on picking up an instrument again. This morning I had cookies for breakfast. Yesterday I took two naps and exercised not at all. I have this feeling that the New Year hasn’t really started yet, that I’m still on “holiday time.” And holiday time is permissive. Holiday time is for napping and feasting and slothing. Holiday time is not for starting new projects and working on healthy habits.
I realized that I do this every year. I make some positive plans for the New Year, but when the New Year starts, I don’t start, too. I have this vague notion that the New Year will really begin when I go back to work, but I’ll still come home to a festive house stuffed with booze, cookies, and cheese. I know I’ll snuggle up with a plate of leftovers amid the glow of the tree and watch a Christmas special I hadn’t gotten to yet. And before I know it I’ll find myself in the third week of January with a dead tree, another 10 lbs of holiday weight, and broken dreams of healthy habits and time spent productively.
I’m decidedly not one of those people who drags out the Yuletide decorations right after finishing their Thanksgiving pie. And I would enthusiastically vote in favor of a public ordinance prohibiting Christmas lights on all buildings before December 1. But when the Yuldetide really gets going for me, I do love it. And like many Pagans I know, I celebrate it as a true 12-day tide, starting with Mother’s Night right before the Solstice and ending with the secular New Year. I know a good many people who take their Christmas/Yule stuff down on New Year’s Day, but that’s always seemed way too early to let go of it for me. Granted most of those who take it down so early are the Thanksgiving decorators, so I can understand how they have gotten their fill of the merry twinkling and sparkling by January 1. Years ago I decided that waiting until the Epiphany, Christian Twelfth Night, to take down my decorations seemed a reasonable amount of time to leave things up (regardless of the fact that I wasn’t Christian).
But having the Yule up that far into January (let’s face it, I never actually get it down on January 5 or 6; I just start to think and feel guilty about it still being up), delays for me the onset of the New Year. Most people I know are no longer celebrating the Yuletide at this point. Almost everyone is back at work, the kids are back at school, and the gyms and Weight Watchers meetings are packed with those who have accepted that Christmas is over and the New Year has begun. But as long as my Yule is up, I’m still in that permissive holiday time, and I can’t take advantage of the enthusiastic New Year’s élan permeating my social sphere. I remain stuck in the hedonistic past instead of advancing toward the healthful new day.
So today, January 2, 2017, I am taking the Yuletide decorations down. The tree will lay in my back yard, providing shelter for the birds a few weeks earlier this year. I’ll pack up the leftovers to take to work for my coworkers (on a different floor than mine). And instead of Christmas lights, I will bask in the glow of the year’s new dawn. May it light my way as I create a more prosperous and productive me. And I’ll start right after this last cookie. . ..