Unity of the Palm Beaches holds 'bowl burning' ceremony to begin new year

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - While many people head off to parties and toast Champagne, others will spend New Year's Eve at a church ceremony.

Members of the Unity of the Palm Beaches' congregation and guests from surrounding areas participated in a "burning bowl" ceremony.

"Whether they are old feelings, old thoughts, old behaviors, old patterns, perhaps there are some relationships you are ready to let go of," explained Patricia Russo, the Prayer Chaplain.

The ceremony is all about release.

"We take a look at all of those things that no longer serve us.  All of those things that we would like to release," she explained.

The thoughts and feelings one wants to release are written on paper, then burned during a ceremony.  Russo said her church conducts the sacred ceremony every New Year's Eve, but some groups will do it at other times of the year.

"We honor what has been, and then we let it go with forgiveness and compassion, and as we write it down, we're releasing that," she said.

Russo said putting pen to paper, physically writing thoughts down, is a helpful symbol of letting go.

"I think the physical act of actually writing it down allows us to really connect with the truth of our inner being," she said.

In the two decades Russo has participated, she says it has been therapeutic.

"We are open to receiving and giving all that we want so we work on taking responsibility for our behaviors, our own actions," said Russo.

After the papers are burned, the group returns to the sanctuary.  That is where individuals ask for peace, harmony or health: any new blessings they want for the coming year.

"We do a meditation to be open to receiving all of the blessings that we really want in our life, what is it that we're really looking for?"

Once a new letter of intention is written, the church takes the new papers and mails them back to each individual in November of the next year.  Russo said receiving that letter can be a good reminder of how much has changed in the past year.

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