Christmas is a ritual. The winter solstice is a ritual. New Year is a ritual.
- • What do you think of when you hear the word ‘ritual’?
• Which rituals have you been involved in during your life?
Many of us won’t be aware of our first ritual; how our birth was marked. Some people go out and ‘wet the baby’s head’ or nowadays baby showers before the birth wish us well as we get ready to join the world. Some of us might have been baptised or christened and some of us might have family names, passed down from father to son, mother to daughter.
Rituals are ways of marking what is important to us. They focus on the transcendent, not in a religious way, but just by letting us know that this that is happening to us, has happened before, will happen again and that life will go on.
Partner rolls his eyes at the idea of ritual as he associates it with religion, which of course it can be, but it doesn’t have to be, even atheists celebrate graduation and the birth of their first child. Religion has certainly dominated the ritual scene, and if that works for your then brilliant, but if it doesn’t, don’t walk away from the idea of ritual just yet.
Rituals are the way that we human beings gather together to mark an occasion and we draw strength from each other as we do so. I’m sure we’ve all been at weddings and funerals where people say; ‘we must do this more often’, but then we don’t, and it’s not that we don’t want to, it just that we can’t find time to fit in a get-together, but we generally put ourselves out for a ritual.
Rituals connect us with our ancestors, as Hamlet said of death ‘t’is common’, we all die, we are all born, the rituals mark the places where our single lives connect with universal humanity.
Rituals can give us a sense of meaning, of recognition at the importance of what is happening. Ritual elevates our experience above the mundane to the transcendent and ubiquitous.
Ritual gives our life shape and structure when things seem to be falling apart of chaotic. If you don’t like the way a ritual is done – you don’t have to avoid the ritual, just make your own up or adapt a current ritual.
- So which rituals do you hate and detest at this time of year? Can you avoid them completely? Can you adapt them or work round them in a way which makes them more bearable?
- Are there rituals which you would like to add to your holiday?
- Who do you want to include in your ritual and how can you involve them in it’s design?
For example, our newly forming ritual is to completely ignore all Christmas food and to eat what we like on Christmas day (last year it was Indian takeaway which looks like a hot favorite this year)
This year we’re going through all the photos we took last year, selecting our favourites and we’re making them into a ‘Our 2014’ photo book and then I’m going to do that every year as I’m sad all the photos are electronic – I love looking through the prints.
The boys chose their own new Christmas bauble this year too, we’ve done it in the past so that by the time they leave home they have their own Christmas decs to take with them and in the meantime we have new baubles on the tree.
Another friend has an family Oscars where they give out prizes for ‘The most embarrassing moment’, ‘The best cook’ etc.
An old head teacher of mine used to work in the soup kitchens (as they were called at the time) each year. This year 2 friends have made soup to take the local homeless charity on Christmas Eve.
A neighbour beat us hands down on the carrots for the Rudolph and port for Santa by the chimney because when her kids woke up they found snowy boot prints from fire place to Christmas stockings (courtesy of a lot of patience and talc).
Close friends and I don’t exchange gifts…we exchange doings…so we go out, or listen to music together or even just go for a walk…it’s the shared time which is the gift.
Rituals can be as elaborate or as simple as you like – as long as it is what you like!
- Can you see any rituals you’d like to work towards in the future?
I’ve once spent Christmas in the Middle East and loved the fact that Christmas doesn’t exist and life carried on as normal in the sun…I don’t think the kids will go for that option, but I’d like to escape Christmas to the sun in the future.
I also really fancy the idea of a retreat..silence, contemplation and solitude to reflect on the year past and the coming year…no chance of that just yet…but I’m not letting go of the idea.
Whatever rituals you engage in this holiday, I hope they bring you pleasure, peace, connection and contentment.