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The Sexy Spirituality of New Year’s Traditions

Firework on August the 15th in Parga Greece

The first moments of the New Year are upon us, saturated with ritual, spiritual meaning, alcohol, and social pressure. These days I don’t much give a damn about New Year’s Eve, or so I tell myself.

Back when I was single (32 years ago), I did give a damn. It was a night when I wanted to be sure I had what was then called “a date.”

So I have to admit to having been affected by the mountain of meaning attached to New Year’s traditions.

This is the night of the year when it’s traditionally important (in this country and Canada, at least) to kiss your love interest as the LCD light flips to 12:00. It supposedly sets the romantic tone for the rest of the year: love or loneliness, etc.

grumpy new year dog

Research shows that quite a number of people kiss their pet at the stroke of the clock. Hard to say how that affects the tone of the coming year.

Antique Rome - Orgy, Bacchanalia - Messaline

The traditional midnight kiss is thought to go back to Roman celebration of Saturnalia, the mid-winter death of sun and hope for rebirth of spring. This was a time when the world turned upside down, with many roles reversed, cross-dressing allowed, and sexual no-nos less in force.

Masked balls are a somewhat more recent European tradition. The removal of the mask is to take away the evil spirits of the old year, and the kiss is to purify. Also, the noise and light of fireworks are traditionally to help run off the lingering evil.

New Year’s traditions in other countries do include some kissing, often the both-cheeks kind, but also other surprising activities from various nations: smashing a pomegranate against the door, walking around the block carrying a suitcase, eating 12 grapes, jumping into ocean waves 7 times, dropping a bit of molten lead in water to read one’s fortune from the shape the solid takes.

These days here, the kiss, the champagne, the fireworks and parties are the expected features. However, husband Bob and I plan to open our Christmas presents to each other that night; neither one of us much likes to be told when or how to celebrate. I don’t want to go to a party, but I do want to do something festive.

I must still be affected by the traditions, because I want some kind of recognition of difference to the night. (Once I walked down to the pond in front of our house and dropped onto the water some little cork boats I’d made to carry candles. They sat still where I put them, except for the ones that toppled over. Didn’t feel auspicious, but it was a worthy effort.)

All that is to say that though I feel far from the need to party in ancient Roman manner on this night, these old rituals haven’t let me go. I still feel the pull.

How about you? Got any Saturnalian plans?

(Sources: Huffington Post,,, Montreal Gazette,

Woman with mask

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  • December 31, 2015 at 2:30 pm Reply

    The days of sexy, glittery dresses, spike heels, champagne and handsome guys are well behind me – so far behind that I can barely remember them. Our NYE’s lately consist off watching the ball drop on TV and going to bed after, with nary a kiss. It’s sad in a way – but I can always conjure up those smashing NYE’s of the past.

    • Peggy Payne
      December 31, 2015 at 2:37 pm Reply

      The memory sounds good, kenju. But I’m liking better my at-home-in-the-woods seeing-in of the New Year. Seems like New Year’s happens about every ten minutes, anyway.

  • December 31, 2015 at 8:25 pm Reply

    Liked your little cork boats idea, and also learning about the kissing the dog tradition I do understand what you mean about the pull of the holiday. Lots of nuances to it…

    • Peggy Payne
      December 31, 2015 at 10:52 pm Reply

      Definitely nuances, Susan. I agree. Best to put the cork boats on water that’s moving, though. More auspicious.

  • January 1, 2016 at 4:56 pm Reply

    I sure avoid the roads and drunk drivers New Year’s Eve, and our tradition of holiday gifts to each other that night well satisfies my wants and needs. As do my traditional gifts to myself at gift giving occasions – this year, filing shelving and bringing enough order to my Raleigh office to accomplish my goals.
    Happy, Happier and Happiest 2016 !

    • Peggy Payne
      January 1, 2016 at 6:28 pm Reply

      And happiness to you, 2016 and on….

  • January 4, 2016 at 11:42 pm Reply

    We slept through the excitement, as usual, but I did have a thought about writing some things down on slips of paper and burning them. Things to let go of from 2015. I like this ritual, but we were too busy sleeping, LOL! Still might do it. Will have to think on it. <3

    • Peggy Payne
      January 4, 2016 at 11:49 pm Reply

      You probably took care of it in your sleep, Beth!

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