|I am going to let you in on a little-known secret: We are seriously under ritualized in the US. This is a documented phenom! There is a field at the intersection of religion and anthropology called “ritual studies” and it was one of my favorite courses in grad school at Harvard.
What does this mean?
Essentially humans need ritual. Think of it as community art. We need shared stories and shared beauty. Bones on which to hang the meaning of our little lives. (Lives which of course feel really big and important to us, most of the time, which can be part of the problem.)
Rituals function similarly to nature. They help us get perspective and relax our vision back out to remember the ways that we are knitted in with the whole. And many of us don’t have enough rituals to guide our lives. In fact this is one of the main reasons people feel blue around December – because one holiday can’t hold the full weight of our need for mystery and magic. It needs to be spread out over several different types of gatherings and moments.
Sure we have religious traditions in the U.S. but many people feel adrift or alienated from their inherited religion (if they inherited one). And even those who love their tradition can at times hunger for something deeper than what they may encounter in the teachings of their family or local community and wonder where they can find it.
What gets in the way of finding the deeper layer of meaning or teaching that we are hungry for?
First of all you have to give yourself permission to be open to meaning and magic that arrive in fresh packages, sometimes even in experiences you design for yourself.
I used to think I wasn’t qualified to design rituals for myself.
Or that rituals were cheesy or fluffy or fringe.
But now I appreciate that they are a vital part of my life and our family culture.
In fact, with coaching clients, we attend closely to everyday rituals, like our morning routine. Because it turns out that creating a life we love doesn’t start “out there” with the big goals, but actually with finding a way to enjoy our days, beginning with with how we start them. A simple experience that helps us wake up our senses, like a warm cup of fresh-squeezed lemon water, can be a powerful daily detox and ritual.
So too annual celebrations and holidays need tending. Our final strategy for preserving your own growth through the holidays is to make sure that you have home-crafted rituals which bring meaning and a “slow down and reset” quality to your life. For example:
One of our family favorite rituals is a green Advent wreath made of aromatic herbs and vintage buttons. I designed and created this practice to fill a need in my own family and for fun decided to share it as a workshop at our community art studio. I was was amazed at how many people showed up. I think many of us are hungry for fresh interpretations of ancient wisdom. *Bonus, this one is super easy to recreate in any setting year to year without a lot of Christmas storage.
Just the act of leaving home and entering silence can be its own simple ritual. I have a friend who rents a vintage RV via Airbnb in the desert of West Texas to take herself on a solo retreat to start the new year.
And long-time mentors/friends of my husband keep a beautiful garden in Seattle where in addition to growing gorgeous tomatoes and other veggies, they have planted trees and flowers in memory of family they have lost. Before any big holiday or celebration they light incense and take a quiet moment to walk around pausing and placing one in front of each of these plants as an act of remembrance.
When we give ourselves permission to get a little creative and playful, we have the capacity to establish beautiful, elegant and sustaining home practices. This is a powerful way to preserve your own growth through the holidays and beyond.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series about preserving your growth through the holidays (and managing families:)) as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Again, you can catch up on the first three posts over on the blog on my website (and share your comments!).
Wishing you a holiday season of magic and surprises.
Love and all the good,
PS If you are looking for a last minute gift, I have included instructions below for how you can give a Kindle copy of The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever’s Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More to a friend or family member.