How do you celebrate the holiday season? Over the years, have you, your family and friends adopted rituals and traditions practiced only at this time of year to recognize holiday occasions or other special events?
For the past 30 years or more, the Garland clan has gathered on the Saturday before December 25th to celebrate the holiday season. Our annual ritual usually includes a feast prepared by my mom and Christmas carols sung by all. We look forward to homemade fudge (Kelly’s Candy), Jam Jams, and marshmallows rolled in toasted coconut. In earlier years, the gathering included an entertaining play or skits performed by the younger generation – a carryover ritual from the original clan’s childhood as my siblings and I would perform the Christmas story for my parents on Christmas Eve.
Over the years, this gathering has expanded from the original six children plus a few significant others to now include 15 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a growing and sometimes changing number of significant others. While some families are not able to travel across the country to participate, most years this get together boasts 25 – 30 family members. It is a loud occasion and not for the faint of heart.
This year the annual gathering took on a new look and feel. For the first time since its inception, my mother did not host the event. In January, we will celebrate her 92nd birthday and earlier this year, she made the difficult move from her home into a smaller apartment in a seniors’ residence. So my brother and his wife graciously hosted the annual gathering in their lovely home located in a central place, making the commute easier for all. While they deep fried the turkey and smoked the beef, the rest of us contributed through the preparation of new “signature” dishes. The annual feast featured a great variety of new flavours, colours and taste. The separate “grown-up” and “kids’ tables” were eliminated and everyone mingled together in a room large enough to accommodate the entire group at one seating. Instead of being Queen of her Kitchen, my Mom was able to sit back and enjoy her great-grandchildren and the family that surrounded her.
This annual gathering is an important one for our family. With the exception of the occasional wedding or funeral, it is the only time we gather together, face-to-face to catch up on life and celebrate the milestones that defined the year that is coming to an end. Hugs are generous and there is lots of shared laughter. It keeps us connected and current in our life stories.
On December 21, a number of my friends also celebrated the Winter Solstice with celebration and rituals. The Winter Solstice is the year’s longest night and the official start of winter when Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is the farthest from the sun in its yearly rotation. Both events included a gathering of friends and family. My friend Pam hosts an annual Winter Solstice soup party. The only prerequisite for participation is to bring your own mug and spoon to partake in the delicious home-prepared soup that she shares. My friend Louise of Thirteen Moons hosted a Winter Solstice pot luck dinner. This celebration included drumming and other rituals and an opportunity to contribute to a local cause. For some, the Winter Solstice and its New Moon is a time to release what no longer serves you, and to make room to manifest your dreams. What are you letting go of? What are your dreams going forward?
In a world of busyness, it is easy to undervalue the significance of ritual and celebration. At The Mane Intent, for example, each workshop ends with closing circle. This ritual affords us with an opportunity to reflect on the insights gained through a day spent connected to nature and at work with horses. It is a reminder how the horses connect people to possibility. It is a celebration of our day and time spent together. Whether in business or at home, I think we need to make time for such events throughout the year and recognize their significance as they add colour and texture to the mosaic of our life. They remind us to stop and celebrate success, recognize achievement and the gifts of life experiences that we bring to each other.
While it is easy to be overwhelmed by the expectations attached to this time of year, I hope this holiday season that you take time to enjoy the rituals and celebrations – big and small — attached to it as well. It might just be the ritual of purchasing a holiday coffee or the donation of gifts for those in need. Perhaps it’s decorating the Christmas tree or simply gathering for a shared meal or two. Take time to breath it in, enjoy the moments you are with friends and family, and take some time to reflect on the gift of insight earned during the year now behind you. Carry the celebration and the anticipation of new possibilities forward into the new year. Live your life fully with intent.
Happy holidays from our herd to yours.