How is it November already? We now have the garden cut back, the patio furniture stored for the winter, and will probably hang, but not turn on, the outdoor Christmas lights this weekend. We had a roaring wind all last night that seemed to carry us from one season into the next. The fall rituals I enjoy, going to the apple orchard/pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, raking leaves (although this year I raked more than even I care to), are now behind me, moving me into the winter and holiday rituals that bring me comfort.
I have always loved rituals. Maybe the first ritual of my life that happened outside of a religious context was afternoon tea with my mom. When I was three, my mother began a bookkeeping business out of our home. This kept her busy for most of the late morning and early afternoon, as I played on the floor beside her waiting for my older siblings’ school day to end. Every day at 2:45, my mom stopped working and went about preparing tea and a snack. Once a pot had steeped, we sat together sipping from floral rimmed cups, eating cookies, and talking about everything from my latest skinned knee to the upcoming cookout we were hosting at the house after the homecoming football game.
I believe rituals act as bonding agents: an adhesive for souls. I believe that adhesion is both material and spiritual, in that I become more deeply connected to both my present moment in this world and the people I share the ritual with, as well as being more deeply connected to the universal energy I believe surrounds us all.
Having afternoon tea with my mother is one of my fondest childhood memories of my time with her. I have carried that ritual forward, and every afternoon I sit down with a cup of tea and relax. A silver lining in this whole COVID affair is now that event is shared daily with my husband and daughter. My heart is filled with joy and comfort every afternoon when we gather around the table, sipping tea from our favorite mugs (currently mine is a mug from the Chicago Art Museum featuring Grant Wood’s American Gothic), eating a little something that I (my hips) don’t necessarily need, and talking about, well…everything and anything.
One ritual that my family began four years ago involves a lot of small pieces of paper, generally holiday themed, a pen or pencil, and a box in which to keep all the paper. Each of us privately writes out three things we are grateful for that happened over the course of the year, three things we hope to accomplish in the new year, and three things we hope for each of our family members. Since there are three of us, that makes twelve pieces of paper each, thirty-six total. The papers are folded in half and kept in the box until Christmas Eve.
After dinner, we gather around the lit tree, shake the box, and one at a time randomly select a piece of paper, reading aloud our gratitude or desire it reveals. I am always moved most by the reflections of the past year my now eleven year-old daughter has of her young life. Her emotional growth is documented on these small pieces of paper kept from year to year.
This ritual is an adhesive for our souls: bonding is its inevitable outcome. It allows the three of us to focus on our hopes, desires, sometimes laments of the last year, and a shared knowledge that no matter what the world outside the walls of our home may hand us, inside our home we support and lift up each other in the hopes that we can all achieve our dreams, which we now collectively carry forth into the coming year.
Reader, what are your rituals? Feel free to share. I would love to share them with the other readers of The Burning Hearth.
Be sure to tune in next month to read Lydia Mikkael’s writing on holiday traditions. Lydia is the author of the blog The Naked Being. She is a seeker and a story-teller, and I have found her to be an optimist on the ability for the human condition to heal itself. Click on the link above to see who Lydia is and what she is working on. Until next time, stay safe and well!