As the year draws to a close I am reminded of the wonderful journey to South America I shared with a good friend of mine five winters ago. It was enriching to get a taste of different customs and celebrations over the holiday season on our journey. An experience that stands out in my memory is our stay in the Chilean desert in San Pedro de Atacama and a powerful ritual we shared; an invitation to let go of the old and welcome the new.

We were lucky to find a very small, family operated hostel. As New Year ’s Eve was approaching we noticed scarecrows being built on the side of the road. Roberto, the hostel owner and his brother built a scarecrow on the side of the road across the street from the hostel. When my friend asked about the scarecrow, Roberto just smiled and said: “You will see.”

Roberto and his mother prepared a feast for New Year’s Eve and invited all the hostel guests for dinner. My friend and I helped with the cooking and contributed some wine. In typical Chilean style, the meal was served very late and by that time all of us had developed a healthy appetite. We thoroughly enjoyed the feast with the colourful group of travellers and the cheerful hosts. Shortly after we had eaten, we went outside. It was almost midnight by then.

As Roberto set the scarecrow on fire, he told us that this was an old tradition to symbolically let go of the old.

As Roberto set the scarecrow on fire, he told us that this was an old tradition to symbolically let go of the old.

As Roberto set the scarecrow on fire, he told us that this was an old tradition to symbolically let go of the old. Along the road as far as our eyes could reach we could see scarecrows burning under the clear starry desert sky. What a wonderful ritual for letting go. It reminded me once again how important it is to let go of the past to truly embrace the present and create the future. Far too often we try to create something new without taking time to consciously let go of the old.

Inspired by the Chilean New Year’s experience, I created a ritual I want to share with you this year:

  1. Take a moment to think about old beliefs and habits that no longer serve you, regrets and resentment that you are still carrying around with you. Write down your old beliefs, habits, regrets and resentments.
  2. Choose a day when you want to let go of them. I like to do my letting go ritual in the night of the solstice. It is the longest, darkest night of the year and seems like the perfect time to release the old. Choose a time that has personal significance for you.
  3. I like to go outside, and burn the pieces of paper that contain all the beliefs, habits, regrets and resentments that I want to let go of. You could also use an indoor fireplace or grill for this purpose. Choose a way of releasing the old that resonates for you.
  4. I like to say “I release you” or “I let you go” as I burn each piece of paper. Find a phrase or a blessing that resonates with you and say it as you burn each piece of paper. You can even perform the ritual in your imagination. Imagining your pieces of paper burning in a beautiful roaring fire and releasing them into the night.
  5. Enjoy the feelings of peace, quiet and spaciousness that come from this cleansing ritual.

Rituals are very personal. May the ideas I shared with you inspire you to create your own ritual for letting go this season.

Please share your ideas on how to let go my blog to inspire other readers. Thank you!

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