Merry Christmas to you! I’ll assume you’re reading this after the whirlwind has subsided. So now that the presents are opened, the cookies baked, and the cards sent (or not,) it’s time to begin thinking about a holiday I can really get behind – New Year’s.

It’s easily my favorite holiday of them all. I love to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I always make resolutions. Some, like lose weight and be more patient with Mom, are repeats every year – but hey, at least I’m trying, right? That’s what clean slates are for. To try and try again.

This year, my writing coach emailed me something interesting. It was a list of assessment questions for 2011. Things like “what energized me?, what did I look forward to?, what have I regretted not doing?, and what made me cry?” She said we have to become self-aware before we can recognize patterns and choose to grow.

So this week I’ll be looking back before forward. It’s bittersweet to reflect on days gone by. I always get wistful when I hear Dan Fogelberg sing about meeting his old lover in a grocery store (you know the one?) or the notes of “Auld Lang Syne.” Even When Harry Met Sally makes me sad when she wonders what on earth the song means and he responds that he thinks it’s about old friends. But it’s a happy sad.

At a New Year’s Eve party I went to many years ago, you had to bring something from the closing year to toss into a big bonfire. Everyone took turns going around the circle explaining what they would be burning and why. A recent grad brought textbooks to burn. They were so fat, the fire went out. Practicality aside, it’s a nice tradition.

I like to dip my feet in the ocean on the 1st (my version of a polar plunge.) Others stay home to cook a big pot of black-eyed peas and ham hocks. In Spain, they eat 12 grapes at midnight to secure 12 months of happiness in the coming year. In Japan, misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven and houses are scrubbed. Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times in an effort to expel the 108 kinds of human weakness. 108!

Whatever your tradition, I wish you and yours all the best for 2012. And wherever you are when they play that familiar song, I’ll be somewhere feeling nostalgic. Happy New Year.