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Dragons and firecrackers are often associated with Lunar New Year celebrations celebrated throughout Asia and far beyond. Symbolic of strength and protection, dragons can overcome potential misfortune while the loud sounds of firecrackers ward off evil spirits and monsters. Each year is linked to one of twelve zodiac animals with particular characteristics bestowed on those born during that year. This is the year of the Rat whose systematic nature leads to stable and successful endeavors.

With each New Year celebration, there is a sense of renewal and commitment to positive aspects of life. Family and friends are honored and a sense of goodwill is promulgated; mistakes and malevolent patterns of behavior are renounced. Spring – a new year – is just around the corner and with it, agricultural societies look forward to new plantings and the transition from winter’s barren landscape to verdant, fertile fields. Although most of us living in suburban and urban environments are largely out of touch with crop cycles, the legacy of these celebrations remains an important lesson of personal review and revival.

We are entering a year of political turmoil – local to national. A myriad of new year celebrations gives all of us an opportunity to take stock of priorities and relationships. Many traditions have survived for millennia and with good reason. Beyond customs and symbols, lies a basic tenet of civilized life, the advantage of support and harmony between individuals. In spite of human foibles, every society has recognized this truth and worked to form strong bonds of reliable companionship for health, happiness and protection. Hopefully, this will smooth the rough edges of political rhetoric and extremism prevalent during election cycles, especially this one.

On January 1st, we drank a cup of kindness for Auld Lang Syne; made promises to be better people and honor our friends and families. Now, a bit later, we can renew those resolutions and continue on a path toward goodwill and peaceful coexistence. Another new year, among many throughout the world, is the Persian celebration of Nowruz, and with it, an additional opportunity to reflect on past actions and pledge better behavior to exemplify the ideals or our “better angels.” With each new year celebration, hopefully, we can assess our progress and conclude, that although subject to human weaknesses, a “new year” reveals a few less blemishes.

Happy New Year!