The Cauldron of Hope: A New Year’s Eve Ritual

If you are gathered with friends or family for New Year’s Eve, here is a light ritual you can do that isn’t interruptive of festivities but can add some meaningful heft to the launch of the new calendar year.

Place a dollar coin, for luck and prosperity, into the bottom of an iron cauldron or Dutch oven. Pour in 2″ of fresh water (rainwater if you have it). Add a handful of kosher salt or sea salt, for strength and patience, and stir until as much salt as possible has dissolved into the water.

Each guest is invited to drip a small libation in the cauldron from whatever they are drinking, with their spoken toast to the New Year. This is the key piece of the ritual: the collaboration of all participants in “blessing” the New Year. You can place the cauldron on the drinks table with a placard describing the instructions, so that as people arrive and serve themselves, they can make their offering and toast. Alternatively, you or another host can station themselves at the drinks table and serve as both bartender and explainer of the ritual. It does not matter whether or not alcoholic beverages are served at your gathering–the ritual will work either way.

Shortly before midnight, float 1/8″ of isopropyl (90%) alcohol* or 151-proof rum atop the mixture in the cauldron. To float the alcohol, hold a spoon upside down (convex side up) in the cauldron so that it is touching the side. Slowly pour the alcohol, allowing it to come in contact with the side of the cauldron as it dribbles over the spoon.


At midnight, light the alcohol afire with a long match, with the cry, “Happy New Year!”. The flame will flare up festively, but burns at a low temperature and should not be a fire hazard unless there is something flammable directly above it (keep a fire extinguisher handy anyway, just in case).

After the fire goes out and it cools, the mixture can be poured into a garden or other growing place (not a potted plant, as the concentration of salt may be harmful if it can’t diffuse widely into soil), or into flowing water. The coin may be kept or placed on a Focus as a “lucky” coin for the coming year.

This ritual is an opportunity for friends to share good will and wishes and to state their intentions going into the new calendar year. It’s easy, fun, visually pleasing and little trouble to put together.


*Not rubbing alcohol, which is typically only 40% alcohol and will not burn.

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