Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The secular new year comes in a rush of wind and sleet, rattling branches and fat flakes amid the gray light. I partake of my rather small annual ritual: updating my calendar with Brighid’s vigils, solstices and equinoxes, the four great holidays and the phases of the moon.
I don’t celebrate the secular new year. We go to bed our usual time, with our usual weekend revelry. I don’t foretell the future, although I may divine the answers to mundane, immediate queries, such as what I need to do to overcome my running injuries. We clean the house, visit relatives, do laundry.
Secular time means little to me, other than a need to change my calendar and update it with the missing annual events. Our secular calendar and its just-past-midwinter new year comes by way of Julius Caesar, a political invention to tie an empire together. The new year comes with no natural analog: not the falling into darkness that is Samhain, the Celtic new year; not the start of spring that is the new year in other parts of the world. No hero was born on this day and the solstice has passed us, the day already lengthening.
It is a calendar for political realities, new year to bind us across traditions. But like most of our civic holidays, it feels arbitrary, disconnected from the natural round. And so I let it go.
I follow the Celtic sacred calendar, which means my year begins as the leaves fall and the frost comes, and my day begins as the sun sets. Get the worst over with, perhaps! Where do you find it meaningful to mark the start of sacred time?