How to Be Better in 2017: An Intercultural Twist

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How To Be Better in 2017

As we enter a New Year, often we think about how we can be better than we were in the last. Thinner, more disciplined, smarter with our finances, kinder. Here, let me share a recent dream I had for illustration.

This dream woke me up with a start. In it, I was wandering around an airport with a ton of baggage. I felt confused. The clerk at the airport thought I must have a large family with me, maybe even little kids. But no. Just me in the dream with my countless pieces of luggage.

As I reflected on that dream, I realized the baggage represented more than physical things. Those bags were full of the stuff swirling around in my mind. Too much. I believe the message for me was to SIMPLIFY.

So, It’s a New Year

I share this dream with you because I believe most of us have a deep yearning to become better – or at least believe we can become better – when we turn into a new year.

I wondered if this “becoming better” was merely a Western concept. Does the Western propensity towards individualism and self-improvement lend itself to New Year’s resolutions? Do those from non-Western cultures also view the New Year as a time to improve themselves?

What I found through my research was yes … and no. Western cultures – and particularly the U.S. –  have capitalized on the “new year, new you” idea. These come in the form of countless books, marketing campaigns, programs, and products.

But in the 21st century, this concept is now a global phenomenon, at least in the urban areas of our world.

Yet most scholars agree the idea of New Year’s resolutions began in the very non-Western culture of Babylonia thousands of years ago. The Babylonians would make promises as collateral to earn favor from the gods at the New Year. You know, the “I’ll do this if you just do this (for me)” approach.

Welcoming in The New Year Around the World

What I did find is no matter the culture, a desire for a new beginning, purification, and even a “reset” marks the New Year.

The Polish, for example, refer to New Year’s Eve as St. Sylvester’s Eve. According to legend, Pope Sylvester managed to capture a dragon and it didn’t escape nor eat up all the people. It also did not set fire to the skies. This was certainly reason to celebrate and wish for better in the new year.

Koreans view the New Year as a time to renew family ties and make a new start. To do this, they don clothes in five colors – red, white, blue, yellow and green – each color symbolizing a new start.

Russians tend to view the New Year with a renewed focus on education and learning. They also view it as an opportunity to pay off any debt, since they consider it a good idea to begin a new year free and clear of obligation.

It’s also common in Russia to write down a wish on New Year’s Eve, burn it and the throw the ashes into a champagne glass and drink it up before the new year arrives. Many Russians also try to be silent for the last 12 seconds of the old year, as they make wishes for the coming one.

Greeks traditionally hang an onion in the doorway on New Year’s Eve, symbolizing new life in the new year. In the morning, parents wake their children by tapping them on the head with the onion, letting them know the new year has arrived.

The Burmese celebrate their traditional Thingyan festival at the New Year, splashing water on each other in a sign of purification as they enter a new year.

In the Philippines, the focus is on circles. Women wear polka-dot dresses, eat round fruits and toss coins into round pans. They hope these practices will usher in prosperity in the new year.

Many Turkish people open their front doors and sprinkle salt, an act thought to bring peace or abundance in the year ahead.

THREE Words and How They Can Help You

Perhaps you’ve heard of the ONE WORD approach to any given calendar year. It’s the idea of determining the single word that will serve as your point of focus and your guiding light as you travel through the new year.

Personally, I have found THREE WORDS guide me better. The three words need to align well with each other and propel me towards another level in my life.

Last year, my three words were ASK, ACT, and ADVANCE. I felt I needed to ASK direction from God and seek help from others, then to ACT more on what I have learned. Finally, I needed to propel that action into ADVANCE, to better live up to what the Master Designer has called me to do.

One result of all this was the start of CultureWeave. Another is the first draft of a book.

I’m still contemplating my three words for 2017. I have an early January birthday and intend to spend some good time on that particular day to evaluate how I spent 2016. I’ll also determine my three words for this year. I know one will be SIMPLIFY.

How about you?

 


Do you have THREE WORDS for 2017? What are they – and why?


IMAGE CREDIT: Public Domain, Wikipedia

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Caroline DePalatis

Founder & Interculturalist at CultureWeave
Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she's still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer's awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there's dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!
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Interculturalist

Caroline DePalatis has worked in the field of international education and service for over 20 years. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, she’s still doing much of what she was trained in: bringing people of the world together. A committed Christ-follower, Caroline longs to shine the Master Designer’s awesome creativity expressed through the cultures, languages, peoples and places of our world. And then there’s dark chocolate. Definitely a channel for intercultural communications!