Rituals

The end of the year holidays mirror our identity and need for rituals

The December holidays, depending on what you are or are not celebrating; Christmas or Chanukah, are filled with images, memories, and sometimes mixed emotions. We often say or hear : Happy Holidays ! or Merry Christmas ! Of course we wish and hope for the holidays to be celebrated with joy and wonder; gathering family and/or friends, deliciously home cooked food and presents scattered around a beautifully decorated pine tree ( if your cultural tradition includes a pine tree for Christmas ) or a lit-up menorah, however, this time of the year can sometimes trigger painful emotions. Sadness, anxiety or frustration can arise if the celebration takes place at a time or place when or where you are going through a challenging time financially, or in your romantic or family relationships, if you experienced a break-up or divorce over the last few months / years or if you are grieving someone dear to you who is no longer around. In this case, the celebration does carry a bittersweet taste and tends to amplify the person’s absence, due to separation, sickness or death.

The holidays help us gather and share presents, presence, kisses, laughter, conversations and a much needed pause from the everyday buzz and rush, however they also force us to face our mourning for our childhood that will never come back and some memories with loved ones who may no longer be part of our life.

I recently had an insightful conversation with one of my clients who mentioned that celebrating the holidays with her young daughter was a beautiful moment but also a responsibility : the responsibility of showing and sharing a ritual that helps us define our identity and values, what we want to keep alive in our home and our heart, from one generation to the next. It inevitably brought her back to her own childhood and to the wonder of the lights, the decoration and the presents and a home filled with warmth on winter nights.

It is interesting to witness what happens when someone gets into a romantic relationship or marries someone who practices another religion or grew-up in another country; how each person’s rituals and ways to celebrate ( or not celebrate ) intertwine or collide. Each one of us comes with his or her memories and habits, which have contributed to “sculpt” our identity.

I experienced this myself as I grew-up with a protestant father who converted to judaism as he wanted to marry my mother, who is jewish. Therefore, I celebrated Christmas with joy with my parents and my grandmother every year until she passed away. I vividly remember the elegant dinner table in her home, the delicious Foie Gras slices served with home toasted baguette, the beautiful glasses filled with Champagne and her unique way of wrapping-up presents. Feelings of sadness and emptiness appeared the years that followed her passing away. I no longer celebrate Christmas as my father now lives far away from where I live. Also, jewish rituals became increasingly relevant as I moved from France to the United States. Being far away from the place we grow-up in makes us reflect on who we are and what matters to us.

How about you ? What do the end of the year holidays bring you ? How do they make you feel ?

For those who would like to listen to inspiring music, I have selected a few pieces of music for the holidays, which are available on Spotify. You can switch from my selection of music for Christmas ( including the legendary “Last Christmas” by Wham! which brings a lot of nostalgia as I remember George Michael, as well as songs by The Beach Boys, Justin Bieber and Michael Buble ) to my selection of music for Chanukah ( including music from Shostakovich, Ana Alcaide, Yerachmiel Begun and the Miami Boys Choir ).

Wishing everyone beautiful holidays !

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