Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Faith: Dry January ritual part of our reset for the new year

By T. Carlos Anderson
Special to the American-Statesman
The Rev. T. Carlos Anderson is director of Austin City Lutherans.

Six years ago during Christmas, our daughter Alex shared her upcoming new-year endeavor : “Dryuary.”

I had never heard the word before but understood it instantly — dry January. Alex, a vegetarian and daily exerciser, proceeded to converse with me and her mother, Denise, about the wisdom of bodily and mental detox after December’s season of excesses. It made an impression.

A year later, Denise and I jumped on the Dryuary bandwagon, and we thanked Alex for role-modeling the idea. Alex yet practices Dryuary as do other family members. This year will mark Denise’s and my fifth year to do Dryuary together.

As 2021 wound down, I especially looked forward to Dryuary’s hiatus on alcohol. Denise and I have wine with most dinners . . . but with COVID-induced staying at home and fewer evening meetings on my schedule, I’ve consumed more wine with dinners — and afterwards — than in previous years. Dryuary not only gives a mild cleanse to one’s psychological and physical states, but also a chance to reset them.

I’m in resetting mode and, to boot, there are good historical reasons that make the case for Dryuary and its invitation to reclaim the wisdom of moderation.

The winter solstice, December 21 — the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere — has a deep cultural history related to the rhythms of year-end harvest. For millennia, the period preceding and following the solstice (what we moderns call October, November, December, and January) has been the time of gathering in harvests, slaughtering for fresh meat, and enjoying the products of fermentation, beer and wine. December was and is the time for excess — eating, drinking, celebrating, leisure — a time to enjoy labor’s rewards at year’s end.

Sober sites:One East Austin bar, please, but hold the alcohol

Our modern-day December holiday season with gifts and the exaltation of consumerism, rich food and libations, and celebrations simply follows suit. Santa Claus, with his round belly and deep laugh, is the iconic representative of our modern season of excesses.

Have you ever put on a few pounds during the winter holidays? Have you ever signed up for a gym membership in January? If so, you’ve experienced the natural rhythms of this time of the year. There’s nothing wrong with occasional excesses. The hundreds of seeds produced by my garden’s basil and cilantro plants when they flower — in anticipation of next season’s reproduction — is a prime example of the goodness of excess.

When excess, however, becomes a way of life, problems multiply for individuals so afflicted and for the society in which they live. Addiction is excess’s most devious manifestation. Eating, drinking, consumerism — all necessary parts of the human enterprise — are best done in moderation. This is the basic theme and message of my first book, "Just a Little Bit More."

As we age, we slow down and our habits — both the good and bad ones — become more engrained. Youth’s ability to shrug off mistakes and pivot to new possibilities has diminished. Hopefully, for those of us in the aging mode, the wisdom of the years has accumulated and produced effective strategies for dealing with the vagaries of life. As we’ve heard it said: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

Dry January:No-alcohol drinks easier to find in Austin

I have, God willing, good plans for 2022: multiple house projects, recovering my golf game, writing another book, continuing the meaningful social ministry work I’m able to do with fantastic partners, and — along with everyone else — I look forward to the end of the pandemic.

Dryuary helps me get a head start on these good ambitions where needed.

Even though Twitter is awash with Dryuary bashing — “I made it 8 hours into this year’s #Dryuary before a bottle of reserve Rioja was calling my name . . . ” — I’m not persuaded otherwise.

The pendulum has swung away from December into blessed Dryuary. I raise my glass of iced hibiscus tea with fresh mint to the new year!

T. Carlos “Tim” Anderson is a Protestant minister and director of Austin City Lutherans, the social ministry expression of a dozen Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in Austin. He writes at tcarlosanderson.com.