Ritual - A ritual is a ceremony or action performed in a customary way. Your family might have a Saturday night ritual of eating a big spaghetti dinner and then taking a long walk to the ice cream shop. (source vocabulary.com)
This was the first on-line definition I found that didn't refer to ritual solely as a function of religion so I decided to use it while simultaneously wondering what percent of families still sit down any day of the week especially at home for a meal and savor the experience of eating and being with each other? How many would actually walk to the ice cream shop especially if it's a long walk?
I also opted for this definition because my favorite childhood holiday ritual involved food and experience.
In the late 80's I made those same sweets for the yearly ritual that was my Christmas party.
Today this ritual has morphed into my giving loaves of chocolate-cranberry bread (from Provence) to those who are part of the fabric of my community, neighbors as well as the souls to whom I feel connected at Wild Birds Unlimited, the Cat Shoppe and Burgess Falls Nursery. Holiday ritual involves conveying to those who are part of my weeks through the year that I value and honor their presence.
|Lily, Ella and Corina.|
|Aunt Dawn, You-Know-Who and Lily|
My rituals are simple. I've lights around the windows in the room where I spend much of my time. This simple shift in light will stay with me through the winter until spring nears. Putting up clear lights to remind me of the Season's Light is ritual for me as is sitting outside under Winter's stars.
Music is part of holiday ritual for many. Every year I hear my friend Kristi Rose and Aqua Velvet perform holiday songs at a local venue. And sometime in the coming week, Jerry and I will probably conjure up our own little performance. We'll put on our Santa hats and venture out to sing carols to a handful of friends and neighbors. We may resuscitate a ritual from years prior. (Yes, sometimes rituals are laid to rest then resurrected.) When my nephews were young, we drove them all over Nashville one year to see homes decked in lights. I still recall turning around in the car seat one night to ensure they were seeing the lights only to find the three of them fast asleep. Jerry and I continued that ritual ourselves and added hot chocolate (maybe that would have kept my nephews awake). With Christmas music playing, we drove all over Nashville seeing Christmas lights until we stopped for reasons I don't recall. This year we're reviving this ritual for an evening.
My favorite more recent ritual has involved going to the Belcourt on Christmas Eve to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" on the big screen.
At times I wonder if the speed with which we live is actually diminishing ritual in our lives. Meaningful ritual requires attention, being mindful and taking time to reflect on what has meaning.
Meaningful rituals don't require money. If the economy were based on my rituals, we'd surely experience a crash. The things that hold the most meaning for me cost little to nothing. Yet it seems around the holidays that buying stuff and eating a lot have become America's primary rituals.
The on-line Encyclopedia Britannica refers to ritual as a specific, observable mode of behavior exhibited by all known societies.
Think about it. At least in our known society, aren't the two most observable modes of behavior in America around the holidays buying a lot and eating a lot?
I'm not knocking food and gifts. Food as a gift is connected to my most meaningful rituals past and present. Awareness and balance seem to be key.
I challenge you in the coming week to consider your holiday rituals. What are they? How do you experience meaning in them? Are they routine and somewhat hollow? Have you inherited rituals that belonged to others and aren't really yours? Are there rituals that have fallen by the way that you want to resuscitate?
As for me, remember that ritual with Winter's stars I referred to earlier? I've got a sky full alongside a nearly full moon awaiting me.
I wish for you simple rituals with much meaning.
-Dawn, The Good News Muse 15 December 2013