There’s a lot of traditions and superstitions that surround the holidays.  We’ve adopted several, including:

-english crackers (mostly because they are just plain fun)

-bayberry candles on Christmas eve and New year’s eve  This was a tradition we started after hearing about it from one of my son’s teachers around kindergarten.  Apparently it’s an old New England tradition that a “bayberry candle burned down to the socket puts luck in the home, food in the larder and gold in the pocket.”    This is just sort of fun as well, although I tend to be a bit of a freak about making sure the candle burns all the way out on its own.

-Black eyed peas and ham.  This is a southern tradition, also known as Hoppin’ John,  and has roots in Europe where eating beans on New Year’s is supposed to be lucky.  The eyes in the black eyed peas are said to resemble coins, and if you add kale, turnip greens or other greens, that is also supposed to represent money.  The good news here is that the dish is pretty healthy for you, with lots of fiber and protein, and only about 350 cal per serving.  Add a little hot sauce, and it’s almost cajun.

All of these traditions and “superstitions” are more like rituals that ground us in the things we do to keep ourselves centered.  It’s a once a year version of that morning cup of coffee, or whatever your routine might be.

On the web, there’s often a lot of talk about luck and serendipity.  Serendipity is not so much a happy accident, but a recognition of the things you stumble upon when on another mission or quest.  I read a book once, and I can’t quite remember the exact title, but it was roughly “Things I learned while looking up other things” that captured this spirit- it’s about being open to opportunities to deviate from your intended path to explore opportunities you might not have had otherwise.

I agree whole-heartedly with Chris Penn that Serendipity can’t be a business plan.  In fact when it comes to business, I’m nothing if not conservative and sometimes overly cautious- law school will do that to you.  But I think you have to be open to what crosses your path.

For example, on Christmas Eve, we were on a plane heading to Florida.  The flight attendants greeted us as we boarded the plane, and everything looked like it would be wonderful and normal.  However, a few minutes into the flight, they asked if there was a doctor on board the plane.  My husband paused for one moment, and got up to help.  One of the flight attendants had passed out and was unresponsive.  My husband helped get the attendant stabilized, and they made a detoured landing in Raleigh to get the flight attendant to the hospital.  There were other doctors on board-  Matt had seen some colleagues sitting more forward in the plane, but instead of letting someone else grab this one, he made a difference in the life of this person.

This is serendipity as well.  There is always the ability to say no to an opportunity that presents itself, or to let someone else take care of the situation, good or bad.  But there’s also the opportunity to take control, to take advantage, perhaps, and to act versus watch the opportunity pass by.  You can make a difference or you can sit on the sidelines.

I look at our lives as a series of opportunities to make a difference.  We can often be positive forces for change and for good, if we’re only willing to recognize the opportunities when they cross our paths.  And sometimes, keeping your head down and keeping to yourself will see those opportunities pass you by- it’s not always easy to recognize them when they come your way.

So while I am willing to make the effort to “ask” for good luck and happiness in the coming year with some of these rituals, I also know they day to day trick is in recognizing opportunities when they come your way.  It’s knowing when to keep on your path, and when to take a moment and deviate from it.

Do you believe in luck?  Why?  What luck do you bring into your own life?  How do you recognize luck once you have it?

I know I feel fortunate to even have this channel to speak to you all, and to make whatever small difference I can- and I want to thank each of you for your time and attention- that’s the best gift of all.