To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
Philip Andrew Adams
The other day I found myself singing along to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…”O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O, tidings of comfort and joy.”
This opening quote may hold the key as it speaks to the holidays as NOT being a time of newness, but rather a time to practice those rituals which bring us reassurance. And isn’t being reassured a path to comfort? And if we are comforted, might we be closer to feeling joy?
With flurries of hurried people pouring out of every store corner and lining up freeway onramps, or when someone heists the parking spot you had set sights on as you are running late for a holiday gathering topped with a dose of prolonged pandemic worry, well it is easy to feel more stress and frustration rather than comfort and joy!
Many clients lament change. Lots of changes are hoisted on our emotions without our permission, which makes resistance a natural response. Rituals are the opposite of change. They are repeated events, activities and symbolic routines and during this holiday season, they come alive. Finding the frayed and grease stained cookie recipe your grandmother used for sugar cookies, lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” while leaving midnight mass, waiting for the adult “kids” to come home and complete tree decorating, making hot cocoa and late night driving around local neighborhoods to see houses dancing with lights, or reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” when everyone is in their new pajamas. It is true, comfort greets us when we experience the soothing “ahh” in the predictability of our traditions.
Opening up the dancing hippo ornament you received from a childhood friend brings a chuckle, or the cardboard snowman with your then kindergartener’s beaming face brings a return smile from you, it can also trigger melancholy, as many of the memories we hold dear are associated with the past. We are challenged to go beyond the “what was” and absorb the comfort these loving artifacts represent. Even if your sweet baby boy is now a baritone, deodorant wielding “dude”, or your precious princess is now a moody, mascara wearing teen, as the parent you may question if you should continue to carry the torch for rituals. If you did not put out the traditional colorful ribbon sweets, believe it or not, your offspring WILL look up from their cell phone long enough to ask “Hey, where are those swirly candy things?” Rituals bring reassurance, comfort and yes, joy.
During the last nearly two years, grief and limitations have shadowed much of the joy in our lives and brought unwanted changes. But guess what? Rituals can be your timeless superpower, impervious to Covid. The ultimate antibody to ward off loss are the traditions stored within our hearts and memories. Open them up, dust them off and embrace their COMFORT and JOY during this cherished season!