Day 11: Christmas rituals
Psychologists talk a lot about the benefits of establishing rituals for our families. And even of establishing rituals on our own, something we do just for ourselves. In this chaotic world, when multitasking has become the norm and life often seems so busy it spins out of control, rituals have become something we can depend on. Positive touchstones that reconnect us with the things that matter to us the most. I wrote a blog-post about some of our rituals, here.
I’m not particularly talking about religious rituals here, although that’s certainly part of it if faith and religion are important to you. A ritual is simply something that only you (or you and your family / you and your tribe / you and your people) do, and you do it regularly. They help create a sense of identity and belonging.
(Don’t confuse rituals with routines. Rituals differ from routines because they are symbolic, they hold meaning, and say “This is who we are and what we value.”)
The Family Peace Foundation says rituals are an important factor in strengthening families, stating: “Family rituals help family members feel good and create a sense of belonging by letting everyone know what’s important to the family and giving members a sense of identity. They offer stability during times of stress and transition, and are associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships.”
Of course it’s not just families that benefit: I would attest that personal rituals are just as beneficial to our happiness, health and wellbeing.
(Like taking a solitary walk in the first snow of the season, or re-enacting a crazy event from the past.)
A lot of us practise rituals without even realising it, especially at Christmas time. If you can start a sentence with “At Christmas we always…,” you probably have a Christmas ritual.
- At Christmas, we always watch It’s A Wonderful Life
- At Christmas, we always volunteer at a soup kitchen
- At Christmas, we always give the kids PJs and a book on Christmas Eve
- At Christmas, we always walk in the snow/on the beach/to see the lights
- At Christmas, we always attend midnight mass
- At Christmas, we always bake sugar cookies for the neighbours
- At Christmas, we always wear ugly festive jumpers
- At Christmas, we always go to carols by candlelight
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and, amidst all the shopping, baking, partying, wrapping, caroling, crafting, cleaning, card-writing, eating, decorating and end-of-year concerting, I think now would be a good time to take a moment to touch base with our rituals.
Your Christmas ritual
All I want you to do today is practise a Christmas ritual. It might be something completely new, or it might be something you already practise. It doesn't need to be super important or complicated. It might even seem silly or even inconsequential, but it's not. Just choose something that makes you happy, and do it with deliberation. With mindfulness. Tell yourself (and your family), this is what I do / what we do. And then enjoy it! For example...
- Watch a sappy Christmas movie
- Make gingerbread together
- Listen to your favourite Christmas music
- Collect pine cones
- Go carolling in the neighbourhood
- Put up Christmas lights
- Read a special book
- Play board games on Christmas night
- Count down the days with an advent calendar
- Take a special photograph for Nanna
- Light a candle for an hour every night during advent
- Donate to charity
- Write Christmas cards
- Buy one new Christmas bauble each year
What ever it is you choose to do, I want you to name it, because that will help to give it weight and importance, and enable it to become that reliable touchstone that makes rituals so beneficial.
"This is our Christmas ritual." Say it out loud, even if only to yourself.
"This is what I do."
I'd love to know about your Christmas rituals. Let me know what you do that helps make Christmas feel like Christmas to you. Write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.