A friend of mine works at a successful New York City advertising firm. When her firm had to make some cuts to the budget, I was impressed at how they adapted to their current financial climate. They couldn’t justify renting the private dining room at the trendy downtown restaurant this year as they had in the past, so they had a pot luck dinner at the office. From the top executive to the filing clerks, everyone cooked something they loved and brought it to share. This seemed like a healthy adaptation to me, making gathering in a holiday spirit more important than the place it occurred in. It put the content of the ritual before the external form. When we’re scared, which many of us are, we have such a strong inclination to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But we need gathering with family and friends more than ever now. We need to affirm our faith in life and acknowledge and appreciate all that we have at precisely moments such as these so that we can sustain our hope and vision for a happy future.
Don’t stop celebrating because you can’t celebrate in the style that you’re used to. Remember that the purpose of ritual is to create meaning, to strengthen bonds and affirm life. Rituals don’t need money in order to accomplish these very humble and human goals. In fact, when we focus on how a ritual looks rather than what it’s meant to do, rituals can become empty. They can feel meaningless and even mock what isn’t there that should be.
Rituals are an important way of marking time, they give shape to the season and to the year, they ground and orient us. They are a way of creating memories that we can reflect on that give us a sense of belonging to a community of people. They also transcend our ordinary day to day routines and allow us to tap into a deeper sense of the meaning of life. They are purposeful — that is, they celebrate something, be it a family, a particular holiday or a significant moment in time that we wish to commemorate. And they stretch us out allowing us to feel that we belong not only to each other but to a community of people as well. They provide us with a sense of place in the scheme of things.
Rituals are also very important for families who are in crisis or have experienced upheaval of some sort. Maintaining rituals can offer both a safe haven in which a family can strengthen or forge bonds and a bridge to safely cross into new territories.
So this year, more than ever, celebrate. Celebrate both with those you love and enter into rituals that are available in your area. This is a good time to take stock of what you have and to enter into the transformative moments that rituals offer as a way of connecting with life’s deeper meaning and purpose.