“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” ~ Denis Waitley
“Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories.” ~ Miller Williams
“Christmas is a time when you get homesick, even when you’re home.” ~ Carol Nelson
“For Christmas this year, try giving less. Start with less attitude. There’s more than enough of that in the world as it is – and people will usually just give it back anyway!”~ Anne Bristow
December is rife with rituals. Rituals are important to us because they carry meanings of comfort, connection, and even sacredness. Along with basic needs of food and shelter, meaning is essential to our survival. So why does it sometimes feel like our holiday rituals might just be the death of us?
Rituals are sacred when they have meaning. Many of our holiday traditions may have started as meaningful, but now they have just become ruts.
Choice breaks you out of your holiday ruts and banishes some of the stress and strain that this busy season brings with it. Here are some ways to liven up your holiday spirit.
Examine Your Old Rituals
Our holiday traditions may have been around so long you aren’t even sure why you do what you do anymore. Traditions become tired; if the only sacredness around your rituals is that you’ve always done it this way, perhaps it’s time for a change.
List out all the activities you usually do this season. Then rate then on a scale of joy. If you dread it score it with a zero and if it’s makes your heart sing, them make it a ten. Examine every activity that is a seven or below to see if you want to axe it or change it some way.
Just the act of examining your choices brings back the realization that these are choices. Rote things lose their luster. We feel obligated to them instead of acknowledging that we always have the power of choice. So, the ones you keep will feel brighter and the ones you discard will open up space for exciting new rituals to take their place.
If you need someone’s permission to drop a worn-out tradition, you now have mine. Stop doing the same old thing just because that’s what your family always does. Even if that means that your family keeps it up and only you step out. It’s ok for you to forge a new path this year.
Choose Something New
I deliberately said choose something new because I don’t want to miss out on the power that lies in making a choice. Sometimes circumstances aren’t how we’d wish them to be, yet we can bring joy into our lives by choosing how we’re reacting instead of bemoaning circumstances.
Maybe this year things changed for you and your holiday doesn’t look like it used to. That can be sad and it can be liberating all at the same time; if you actively choose to create new rituals for yourself.
For example, if you got divorced this year this might be your first Christmas Eve without your kids. That can feel very empty and sad. You can stay there or you can choose to create a new Christmas Eve ritual that celebrates what you do have in your life; invite friends over for dinner, go out to a play, or have a meditative evening of self-care complete with a bubble bath, a good book, or dancing in the living room.
Another possibility is that you keep the same rituals but choose to show up differently. This year you might choose to let go of your need for a perfect evening and just relax and have fun when your family comes over. Or, you might release yourself from a compulsive need to over shop and instead spend time expressing your appreciation to the people you love. The ritual can remain the same and you are the one who changes.
Choose to Make an Impact
One of the stressors we ritualize is gift buying, and for some people this can reach a fever pitch. This year you have the option to make a different choice. Instead of buying gifts for your extended family, why don’t you all agree to set a monetary limit and do something good in your community. Get the kids involved in the selection and implementation of this project. One of you could take a differently abled person shopping for things they need. Another could set up a sing-a-long at a retirement home and give out small ornaments to the residents. Or buy toiletry sets for the homeless and go down to the shelter as give them out.
Then when your family gathers for the holiday you can each share what you did and talk about the impact you made. Giving is what the season is all about, not necessarily gifts. This way you can give your kids the gift of service, which is a gift that would continue to give all throughout their lives.
Rituals and traditions are what make the holidays special. My only request is that this year you examine your traditions to make sure they are still sacred. Some might be retired, some new ones might be created, and some might feel fresh just because you actively choose to participate in them.
My holiday wish for you is a bright, loving season full of affirming choices and sacred rituals that empower and elevate everyone you connect with, including yourself.