Whoever decided that the beginning of the year should occur on the first day of January was wiser than most of us realize. The beginning of the year could just as easily have occurred on any calendar date, but someone decided that it should occur just after the beginning of the winter solstice. This is when the sun appears to have reached its lowest altitude in the sky at solar . The days are long and dark and we see little of the sun. Winter is just beginning, and for many of us, it is a time when we need a little moral boost from the dreary weather that lies ahead. There are many of us who start counting the days until the fishing season starts, or the golf course is open for use. But even though these events are weeks away, something magical happens. People, who know more about science than the rest of us, say that gamma rays from the sun are responsible for the transformation, but to me I still believe in the magic of my childhood. Tiny flowers began to appear beneath the snow, and onions and potatoes sprout in the pantry. You wouldn’t notice any of this if these small events happened months later, but at the beginning of the year it is magical. We look with wonder at the tiny flowers, and feel a sense of promise of what is to come. Today, I pulled the small golden bloom from a bitterweed, and I have it on my desk as I write this. I am probably the only person in the world who likes this small plant, but to me it holds the promise of what is to be in the coming year. The days are already growing longer, in small increatments, just as life has a way of slipping up on us. I look at this small bloom with its bittersweet smell, and know that there will be pain, sorrow, and grief as we inch toward spring, but there will be good things, too, things that are magical and wonderful. I look forward to these events with great anticipation as I wish each of you a Happy New Year . . .