Exploring Rituals for the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us – I’m taking a break from wedding talk today… but there is a connection. It’s something I write about often: ritual. And what could be more ritualistic than Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or New Year’s Eve?  From the more secular parts of the celebrations, 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, wrapping gifts – all become meaningful when we do it year after year, just as our parents did, and their parents before them.

Photo Credit: Rhinehart Photography

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. But sometimes those same traditions over and over can become more of a chore than a joy. 

Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own traditions to pass down through generations? Some families do, but if you don’t, you have the opportunity to start something of your very own. Simple things like driving around to look at lights, or baking cookies are holiday favorites. Here are a few more ideas that might inspire!

Explore world customs and make ornaments, food, or craft projects that reflect another culture. Can you imagine eating latkes for a special Christmas meal? Expand your cultural awareness with the Italian Fest of the Seven Fishes. You don’t have to be Latinx to enjoy tostones (fried plantains) or coquito, which is a coconut-based drink enjoyed with cinnamon and rum, similar to eggnog. 

Giving 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 that actually want. Adopt any cause or charity that resonates for you, and then continue to support it every year.

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the use of your beautiful photography!

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

Karaoke anyone? 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! 

Start an on-line holiday remembrance tradition, using photos or video. Mix it up with quotes from the family and the famous. Include favorite foods, special moments and even a few bloopers (but not too many, don’t embarrass anyone).

These are just a few ideas that may inspire you. I hope you will dream up your own traditions and personal rituals to add depth and tradition to your holiday season. ¡Felices Fiestas! 节日快乐 (Jie Ri Kaui Le)! Laethanta saoire sona! 幸せな休日 (Shiawasena kyūjitsu) Li holide eximnandi! Forhe Feiertage! Etc. etc.


find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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Enjoy the holidays!!!

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