Throughout recorded time it appears that the Winter Season has been celebrated with ritual. Ritual is, at its simplest, best described as the habitual performance of some action. At this time of year much of what we consider ritual is believed to have symbolic value, as prescribed by religion or the traditions of community.
So, what do I mean by ritual?
The earliest known and undisputed evidence of ritual forming part of our human culture is the burial rites from the Upper Paleolithic age. Earlier skeletons have been found without any evidence of deliberate burial and therefore do not indicate any form of ritual. This indicates social as well as religious meaning to what can be described as ritual. Rituals may aid in creating a sense of group identity, for example: going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. We connect with a sense of belonging.
I like to think of ritual as having a close connection with reverence. In that light, I like to think of using ritual to celebrate the spiritual in everyday life, bringing in a sense of peace and harmony. This conscious use of ritual is highly celebrated at the Winter Holiday Season, but we are not always conscious of intent. This Winter I encourage you to embrace a conscious awareness to your holiday traditions, so that you may keep what serves you and let go of those ritualistic aspects of the season that no longer nourish you holistically.
Do you remember that Christmas gift giving originated from the Three Wisemen traveling to visit the Christ child and bringing valuable gifts of frankincense, myrhh and gold? How often do we stop to think of that as we race around trying to get the “perfect gift”? Did the Christ send out a gift list? I don’t think so. I listen to children talking about “what I’m gonna get and it better be right or I’ll take it back.” This saddens me to realize the loss of graciousness, the simple joy of receiving something from someone because they cared enough to make the effort. Some good friends of mine don’t buy gifts, they make them. They pick names and each member of the family makes something for someone else. When I first heard this, it offended my sense of ritual! We always buy gifts and fill stockings – what do you mean, only one present per person? But as my family grows older I have begun to realize what rituals or traditions have served their purpose and which ones have evolved into something that retains a sense of charm.
I also look forward to creating new traditions as my family grows. As my life has blended with another family, so both my daughters have blended with other families and we get to embrace lots of new rituals. Some cause laughter, “why would they do that?” and some make us question the value of some of ours. This Christmas or Holiday Season I encourage you to look at what rituals are meaningful and which ones are not so uplifting and to make changes.
So, in the sense of sharing ideas, here are some of the things that make the Holiday meaningful to me and my family:
- I take each of my daughters out for a day. We Christmas shop. I buy them something they want and we have lunch together. It’s not about the presents; it’s about the time spent together.
- Making things for people. Yes, I’ve learned from friends. Check the recipes section.
- I do something anonymously for a charity or for someone I know is having a difficult time. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and it’s my secret, which I enjoy.
- I invite the Advanced Lightworkers to a celebration of the Solstice. We meditate, do healing circles, and we laugh. It just feels so right!
- As a family some of us plan to go to Mass on Christmas Eve and never make it! Ha! But we get together Christmas Eve with friends and loved ones to break bread and drink some bubbly. I feel a sense of belonging, and there is always laughter.
- Christmas Day now varies as I have an extended family. For many years I was the hub, and all came to me, and I cooked far too much food and nurtured everyone. I’m a natural caretaker and I loved doing this. It’s now my time to receive, and that’s a learning experience. One of my thrills is one of the girls calling me and asking “how do you make this mum?”
- I still procrastinate writing Christmas cards. Some years I sent them out, some years I don’t. I love the ritual, but don’t always make time for it. I guess email has become a new tradition for so many of us. But I do like to make contact.
I hope that by sharing these personal traditions with you I help you look at your own rituals. Take time to ponder on them and this year start to make the changes that bring that reverence into the Holiday Season again. And do let me know if you use any of the recipes for gifts, and any others you might want to share. We’ll put them on the website for all to enjoy.
Merry Christmas and Keep Well,