Traditions and Rituals

Halloween and Thanksgiving are now over and we seem to be well on our way to a time full of traditions, rituals and gatherings.

There are a string of holidays from this point forward – Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years and more. I know I must be missing some especially as we move into the new year.

These holidays bring out the family and cultural traditions. It is a time when people have set rituals to go with those celebrations and they almost always involve the gathering of friends and family.

As we approach the cold time of the year here in the northern hemisphere the world becomes darker earlier in the day. We tend to retreat into our homes seeking warmth, light and comfort. These holidays, traditions and rituals bring this light, warmth and a bit of grounding and hope as we wait for the spring to return.

If you look closely at these holidays they are center around light in some way – candles, lights on the houses and trees. They also include special foods – candies, cookies, special meals and drinks. The key to all of this, however, is the gathering – the people in our lives that we pull together. There may be all this plus gifts but it is the people that we share this with that matter. It is the friendly faces, the sounds of laughter and the joy of having family or dear friends come through our doors to witness this ending of a year, the lengthening of the day light and a new year.

This all leads us to this year – 2020 holiday time and traditions or rituals that are hard to do because people can not – should not be gathering.

So how do we move forward? How do we find our way as each holiday passes us? We as people need this time of grounding – of settling ourselves and re-affirming our relationships with others. We are not really solo beings. We need each other. Even those of us who say we are introverts seek some time with others – especially in the dark and cold of winter.

Many people did find a way of connecting over Thanksgiving – meals shared over zoom, short gatherings outside sharing pie, dropping food off at friends houses and smiling through the doorway, dinner around the backyard fire pit. I also know that there are others who spent the time alone. Many of us who are struggling to find ways to hang on to the rituals that have meant so much to us.

As I try to make sense of this year and how to keep myself grounded and how to find a way to honor these times I have decided to think small – very, very small. I am working to find the little rituals that had meaning to me and enjoy them to the fullest.

I have always made holiday cookies with another family. It is a time to gather, bake, laugh and chat. Not this year -so I am thinking of sending friends a fun mug, a package of tea and cookies. So that we can zoom and share tea and cookies for the holidays. We may not be baking together but we can at least share a conversation and a treat.

I can keep the tradition of a Christmas tree with lights in the house and add a few extra candles to light each night to honor the ending of fall, the start of winter and for me the Christmas holiday. Even if my gifts will be sent the tree can for me hold the light of peace and joy that I remember and like at this time. Maybe the tree can come in a bit earlier.

I am making a stack of books that I want to read or would like to re read during this holiday time. If I am not busy preparing for large meals I want to be engaged in activities that bring joy and comfort in that open time. So what could be better than a cup of tea, a fire or a few candles and a good book to read.

This year is a year to step back to find joy in the little things that make you happy and help you to feel relaxed and grounded. In years past most of us have run around like crazy to do for others – gifts, meals, traveling and by the time January hits we are in need of a rest. Doing for others is great and can be done in little ways but in this wild and crazy year it may be time to do for ourselves as well.

What little ways can you find to celebrate the traditions and rituals of these holidays that bring you joy? What can you do with this quiet time?

Make a list of the yearly group activities you have enjoyed and then plan what you will do instead. Be specific and sent dates and times so you don’t find your self on a special night wondering what to eat or do. This is a time to build new rituals for yourself and your small family/household. This may be only for this year or you might find you enjoy having this smaller gathering and continue it into the future.

Will this make it ALL better? – no I am sure not. We will still miss our family and friends sitting beside us, laughing and sharing a toast. It will be hard but if we set small events to look forward to it can ease the quiet and help us move along towards spring and good health.

So how and what are you going to do with this new holiday time?

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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5 Responses to Traditions and Rituals

  1. arjeha says:

    This year, more than ever, it is important to keep traditions alive even though how we approach them may be different. I guess the key is to keep in mind that keeping it small for one year will allow for many big celebrations in the years to come.

  2. Yes, yes, yes, such a beautifully reflective piece about how to celebrate during this pandemic. I, too, am greatly comforted and moved by the lights of these holidays…we decided to splurge on having more lights outside our home, to spread cheer in a ‘healthy’ way. I am also writing more letters, being more intentional at connecting with others. It is a hard time, but still very beautiful and dear.

  3. Ramona says:

    I love this post and your words: “Make a list of the yearly group activities you have enjoyed and then plan what you will do instead. Be specific and sent dates and times so you don’t find your self on a special night wondering what to eat or do. This is a time to build new rituals for yourself and your small family/household.” I was trying to explain caroling to my grandson and then had to add, we won’t be doing it this year b/c of the virus. Ideas for what to do instead?
    Your stack of books appeals to me.

  4. I’ve had to up my game to make holidays (e.g., Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot) engaging for the kids. Will have to continue to do more of that this year for Chanukah since we won’t be having any communal celebrations with grandparents or with our synagogue. However, this does opening the door to creating new traditions.

    BTW: We don’t celebrate Christmas, but I’ve gotten into Jólabókaflóð the past few years. (Not like I needed an excuse to read a new book at night… Ha!)

  5. Karen says:

    This year will definitely be like any other, but I really like the suggestions you make. An action plan will definitely help in making the best out of a most unusual holiday. I enjoyed your post very much.

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