Create your Own Rituals of the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us – I’m taking a break this week from the wedding part of wedding talk, but today’s column still includes something I write about often: ritual. And what could be more ritualistic than Christmas or Hanukkah (or Kwanzaa, or Solstice, or New Years)?  From the more secular parts such as the Christmas tree and gift exchanging to the most holy and sacred acts of worship – the holiday season is replete with customs, traditions and rituals. Lighting candles, decorating trees, even wrapping gifts becomes meaningful when it is done every year, just as your parents did, and their parents before them.

A beautiful winter photograph by Rob Lettieri

I look at it this way: old or ancient customs connect us to the continuity of life, to our faith or cultural past. New traditions bring closeness within our own families and communities right here and now. After all, sometimes those same traditions over and over can get boring. While wrapping gifts may be joyful to some people, it may be a dreaded chore to others.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own ritual to develop and pass down through generations? Some families do have their very own traditions, but if you don’t, you have the opportunity to start your own. Here are a few ideas that might inspire!

Explore world customs and make ornaments, food, or craft projects that reflect another culture. How about eating latkes for a special Christmas meal. Or expand your cultural awareness with the Fest of the Seven Fishes, if you’re not Italian and already doing this, that is. You don’t have to be Latino to enjoy tostones (fried plantains) or a coquito, which is similar to eggnog with rum. You get the idea!

Giving to others is always important. Have your family conduct a food or coat drive, or buy gifts to donate to a local shelter. Before donating anything, be sure to check first to see exactly what they need. Remember, it’s not what you want to donate, its what they truly need. Gift cards are often perfect because they offer people the opportunity purchase what is truly needed. Adopt any cause that resonates for you, and do something relevant every year.

Start a tradition of reading. Choose a classic such as the wonderful O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi, or poems, chapter books, or really anything, but try to pick something that might take you out of your comfort zone. Everyone will be more open hearing the book when it’s done together as a group activity. Whether it’s after the candles are lit for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, or for the 12 days of Christmas, read a chapter each night.

Reading for the holiday.

Learn to sing songs together. Not everyone is musical but most can still muster up a few tunes with the family. Sing it loud, sing it proud, and sing it every year!

Have computer savvy young people start an on-line holiday remembrance tradition, using photos or video. Mix it up with quotes from the family and the famous. Make note of favorite foods, best moments and even a few, bloopers (but not too many, don’t embarrass anyone).

These are just a few ideas, and ideas are free so I hope you will dream up your own and begin your personal rituals to add depth and tradition to your holiday season.

 The gorgeous christmas tree photo is by Rob Lettieri

and the book photos by our go-to great photographer Lisa Rhinehart

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