My New Year’s Eve Tradition: The Burning Bowl Ceremony (By: Anne C. Sabagh, Certified Life Coach)

When you think about New Year’s Eve, I imagine what usually comes to mind is going to a lively New Year’s Eve party, surrounded by friends and family, and watching the ball drop from Time’s Square in New York City on TV at midnight; followed by a flurry of activity of running around giving everyone in attendance a hug and a kiss and wishing them a Happy New Year. While this is certainly many people’s tradition, and has even been one of mine in the past, in the last few years, I have engaged in a more quiet, but deeply healing practice that has become my New Year’s Eve tradition. It is called the Burning Bowl Ceremony and is held at a local Unity Church close to where I live. At this service, each person in attendance symbolically releases what they do not want to carry into the new year and sets their intentions for what they desire to do, have, and be in the coming year. Participants have time to reflect and meditate on what they wish to release, and then, just outside the church, there are fire tenders who stand witness as each participant drops their sheet of paper noting what they want to release from the past year into the fire to burn those limitations in the burning bowl.

After the participants head back into the church, each person has time to envision the new year and write a letter to themselves that will be mailed back to them the following November, around Thanksgiving. When they receive this letter, they are able to see how far they have come with their intentions they set for themselves for the year.

I have found this practice to be a very powerful and effective way to set your intentions for the coming year, and to release what no longer serves you or what is holding you back. It is a practice I have done for at least the past 3 years with my husband and some of our friends, and it is a practice that I really love and look forward to each year.

If you do not have a church in your area that hosts something like this, you can certainly do a modified version of your own burning bowl ceremony. To do this, you might take some quiet time to write down all the things on paper which no longer serve you, and which you do not want to bring with you into the new year. Then, if you have a hibachi grill or something similar, bring it outside, and prepare a fire. You can then release your paper into the fire to release all the things you do not want to bring with you into the new year. Once you have done so, make sure the fire is fully extinguished before going back inside. After you have gone back in, you can then write a letter to yourself noting all that you wish to accomplish in the new year. Once completed, you can put it away in a folder, and note in your planner, or set a reminder for yourself on your phone, to open it on Thanksgiving of the coming year. Then, when you open it the following Thanksgiving, you will see how far you have come, as well as areas where you have made great strides, but perhaps still have some more work to do.

I offer this as a possible alternative to making new year’s resolutions that are all-too-often broken almost as soon as they’re declared. This practice has provided me with a way to, instead of proclaiming arbitrary resolutions, to intentionally set goals that I wish to achieve in the new year, as well as proactive steps I will take in order to achieve those goals. Knowing that you will receive a letter at Thanksgiving of the coming year also serves as a way to hold you accountable, as, when you receive the letter, it shows, in your own writing and own words, what your intentions were.

On this 18th day of the new year 2019, I wish each and every one of you a wonderful year ahead, full of self-discovery, goals realized, joy and happiness.

*Anne Sabagh is a Certified Life Coach based in Northern Virginia. She sees clients in person at Goose Creek Consulting in Centreville, VA, as well as conducting coaching sessions via phone or web from anywhere. Her personal website is

She specializes in working with people dealing with mental and developmental health concerns in order to help them develop their greatest mental wellness possible. She is a highly sensitive person, an empath, and identifies as a person on the autism spectrum. As such, Anne brings a great deal of empathy to her work with clients.
She loves animals, music, and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in Northern Virginia with her wonderful husband Tony, and their beloved cat, Robin.

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