Rituals for the New Year

If you’re looking to create lasting change in the coming year, you might want to introduce a tool more powerful than willpower. Instead of making a resolution to let go of a bad habit, make more money, or meet Mr. Right, try performing a ritual around it.

“Rituals are the spiritual technology of the 21st century,” says Kripalu presenter Barbara Biziou, a global ritual expert and the author of The Joy of Ritual. “They shift our consciousness from one state to another.”

Barbara defines a ritual as “a series of structured, symbolic acts that give us tools to shift our mindset, break barriers, and open to an expanded vision for our lives.” She agrees with Carl Jung, who said that symbols are the language of the soul, that they bypass the logical mind and communicate with us on a deeper level.

When it comes to performing rituals, Barbara says that the first 12 days of the year are an especially potent time because, on a spiritual level, they symbolize the 12 months of the year.

Here are three of Barbara’s favorite New Year’s rituals.

The Letting-Go Ritual

“New Year’s is a time to cleanse, renew, and rewire to bring in new patterns,” Barbara explains. “Almost every spiritual tradition begins the new year with letting-go rituals in order to make room for the new.”

How can you let go of the old? You might clean out your closets and donate clothes that you no longer wear to charity. “In Italy,” Barbara notes, “it’s common for people give things away at the beginning of the year.”

But an even more intentional ritual is to take an inventory of the past year. Barbara suggests writing down what’s no longer serving you, what you don’t want to bring into the new year. Then rip up the paper, shred it, even burn it. “Rituals talk to our subconscious,” Barbara says. “The releasing ritual gives us the message that that part of our lives is over.”

The Prosperity Ritual

If you’re looking to bulk up your bank account—or whatever you deem a source of wealth—give this one a try. When you return home for the first time in the new year (perhaps after a late-night party), have a bowl of coins sitting outside your front door.

Bless them for everything you want in the new year—a handful for abundance, a handful for a healthy baby, etc.—and then toss them inside your home and bless them again. Leave them there for 48 hours and then give them all away, a symbolic gesture of your trust that you’ll receive what you need, and that you have enough to give some away.

“It’s a fun, affirming ritual,” Barbara says. “And, when you’re in a state of gratitude and happiness, things manifest faster.”

The Romance Ritual

Longing to find a romantic partner? Do what some do in the Far East: Don new red underwear on January 1.

It might seem like a silly superstition, but Barbara emphasizes that rituals—which have a beginning and an end, and almost always involve a physical action—send a message to the brain that the brain reads as real.

Strengthening the new patterns you’re trying to create is also part of the process. “It takes 30 or 40 days to rewire the brain,” Barbara says, “so taking small, structured actions daily—like blessing your money or reciting a mantra—helps move your life to a new level.

Your intention at the very beginning of the year sets the tone for what follows. “When you have clear resolutions,” Barbara says, “rituals make them that much more powerful.”

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