Why Not . . . Establish Holiday Rituals?
Wednesday November 30, 2016

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Holiday rituals are in many ways akin to the rituals in our everyday lives. Those daily, weekly, and monthly activities that bring us calm, provide structure as well as something to look forward to. The rituals can be as extravagant or as simple as suits our taste, but the underlying and understood prerequisite is that it must be something we sincerely enjoy rather than doing so simply to go through the motions.

A few years ago I shared a list of trusted and new ideas for holiday traditions, and more recently I discussed the idea of traditions: to follow or not to follow. After all, the gift of having rituals in our lives is to deepen the quality, elevate the experience and simply by knowing we can look forward to these particular holiday rituals we feel a sense of stability and security, knowing what to expect, knowing what will make us smile and put us at ease. As someone who is incessantly curious, trying new things, taking risks, and understanding that the world changes, having a few things to trust with the knowledge of how they will unfold, the joy they will bring into our lives, is a gift we can give ourselves and those we love.

Below are a few holiday rituals I enjoy bringing into the holiday season each year. I would love to hear your favorite holiday rituals are as well. Feel free to share in the comments.

1. Plan a Day of Decorating

For one month the house becomes a festive holiday sanctuary with pine boughs, stockings hung and tabletops becoming adorned with festive crimson and white. Knowing that the decor is temporary offers a welcomed change, but also the gift of packing it up for the next season and kicking off the new  year with a fresh new home.

Looking forward to an entire afternoon or day to pull out the boxes, hang the wreaths and all the trimmings, is something I look forward to each year.  After carefully looking at my calendar and determining which day will be the day of decoration, I must admit, I do look forward to it.

2. Jazz up the Tree Trip

Speaking of the day of decoration. My day also includes the trip for the tree. After all, the decorations for the tree are stored right alongside all of the other holiday decorations, and it is the tree that finishes the home for the festive season.

With regards to the tree, I plan it to the hour. Okay, maybe I am not that particular, but I at least set the time I will hop in the car with my pups and go hunting for the perfect green needled flower. I usually go to a tree nursery, but every year is different especially since this year my tree will be petite. A new change I am curious to try this season.

Beginning with making sure the proper music can be played to set the jovial mood to making sure there is a favorite stop at a local bakery to pick up hot chocolate or something sweet and seasonal to nibble on, the journey begins.

3. Stock a holiday food shelf or cupboard

The month of December brings the opportunity for unique and special treats. Whether you bake them yourself or pick them up at your favorite chocolate or sweet shop, stock a shelf with the fudge, the decadent chocolate for making chocolat chaud (I love this recipe), and perhaps even the liquid therapy to mix up a favorite holiday mixed drink or cocktail for a visit with a friend.

4. Turn on the Holiday Tunes

I am a toe-tapping fool when it comes to holiday music. And with a few new albums released this year that caught my eye (as shared in this year’s Holiday Gift Guide), I think I will have to add a few new songs. But part of what makes the holidays is the music, the ambiance, and then the mood is set. Below are a few playlists I pulled together of the past couple of years:

~2013 TSLL Festive Playlist

~2014 TSLL Holiday Playlist

~2015 TSLL Holiday Playlist

5. Send out Invites for Your Holiday Soiree

In 2014 I hosted my first holiday soiree, and oh, how much fun I will always remember it to have been. From cocktails to a antipasto platter to wine and fantastic conversation with lovely guests. While yes, planning, preparing and cleaning up is a lot of work, it all becomes worth it when the event goes so well. If you are considering throwing a soiree this year, enjoy picking out creative invitations and sending them out to your guests ASAP. While I know inviting can easily be done via email, I must say, receiving a carefully inscribed invitation in the mail always makes me smile.

6. Spruce up your Holiday Attire

Speaking of hosting a holiday gathering, whether you are hosting or not, you most certainly will be attending a few gatherings. So  why not look your best? Check your closet to see what you already have and love and then take advantage of the aptly timed sales going on to finish or freshen your look. Net-a-Porter’s designer clothing continues to drop in price, as does The Outnet if you’re looking for items that will be chic and timeless and most importantly, available at a great price.

7. Partake in Community Holiday Activities

Depending upon where you live and how long you’ve lived in your hometown, you may know of certain activities and special events that only occur during the holiday season. Such as the opening of the ice skating rink, a special pastry made at your favorite bakery only during the month of December. Whatever it is that you love and want to support, put it on your calendar to partake and be sure to savor.

8. Schedule time to watch your favorite Holiday Movies

The Holiday, Elf, White Christmas, The Holiday Inn, A Yogi Bear Christmas, The Christmas Story. The list goes on. Make a list of the movies you want to see this season and either find the small theater that is showing them (we have a theater in town that shows favorite holiday films, and movie-goers can sit in cozy armchairs, sip wine and nibble on pizza or whatever they order from the back bar – it is a true treat and the tickets are fewer than $5!) or save them on your DVR or add them to your watchlist on Netflix or Amazon.

9. Plan time to savor a holiday gift shopping excursion

While holiday shopping can technically be done at any time of the year, taking time to do some of the holiday gift shopping during December is a ritual in and of itself. With the holiday shopping decorations, the chilly weather outside requiring you to bustle about and the thrill of discovery when you find just the right gift, I don’t know about you, but this is part of the holiday season that I enjoy savoring.

10. Plan an After Holiday Respite

Okay, let’s be honest, the holidays can be exhausting. Yes, they are lovely and provide an opportunity to reflect, be grateful and truly be present, but at the end of December or January 1st I am quite excited to get on with the new year. So why not plan an after holiday respite to look forward to? Maybe it will be how you ring in the new year or maybe it will take place sometime during January. Either way, plan it now (as we talked about a few weeks ago, there are benefits in doing so), and not only can you enjoy the holiday season, but what follows it as well. A win-win.

So here we go. Let’s make a conscious effort to cultivate holiday rituals that speak to what we love about this time of year and offer us moments of true and complete joy. After all, no matter what the advertisers suggest, or even our friends and family, when we know what makes us smile, what it is we look forward to and communicate that as well as integrate that into the season, it begins to look even brighter than it already was. Happy holidays!

~Find more seasonal inspiration here.


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14 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Establish Holiday Rituals?

  1. We absolutely have a decorating day. The tree arrived yesterday. Today we will decorate, all together. Andy Williams must be singing Christmas carols. He is the ultimate. Various tacky decorations (plush dancing Santa, for example) that were given by beloved relatives take up their traditional positions. Later we will make thousands of Christmas cookies to give to just about everybody we know (not a thing in France, but everybody goes nuts for the cookies). And one night we will watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special. We’re also having a holiday party in two weeks.

  2. As I read your post, with a cup of tea, sitting in the twinkling glow of the lights from my christmas tree, I feel truly blessed. Our family tradition is to decorate our home the day after Thanksgiving. I am happy to say that my teenage daughter kept telling relatives during our Thanksgiving dinner how excited she was to decorate the tree the next day. With christmas carols playing, our mugs of hot chocolate, the last minute trip to replace those strands of lights that don’t light up in the test run, it is this family ritual that kicks off the christmas season in our house.

  3. My rituals start with a stop at Starbucks for a cup of chai with eggnog on the day after thanksgiving…delicious! A few years back I got rid of the artificial tree I no longer used and now I adorn my home with poinsettia’s and fresh greenery. Thinking about my upcoming shopping trip to my favorite local nursery and all the wonderful smells (I love the smell of balsam, pine, and fir) and of course the complimentary popcorn is another happy holiday ritual. There is also a few annual holiday get together with lifelong friends that have no set ritual other than finding a time and place to gather and share in the spirit of the season and our enduring friendships. In more recent years I now host my family’s Christmas brunch, which now includes decorated grocery bags to hold all the treasures that no longer fit in a stocking. One year I actually hung the bags on the mantle… (Preloading) and it was quite comical. And finally the timing of your article was so apt, as I’ve been feeling the need for a new ritual, addition to my Holiday festivities …hoping… the right idea will manifest effortlessly.

  4. Here, here to all of the above! I do these things, and yet I don’t think about how they are “rituals.” That idea will help me enjoy the doings and comings and goings even more, from the tree-fetching (what I call the second Most Wonderful Day of the Year) to the tree-trimming, during which we play a CD we “accidentally” bought during our first year of marriage — it’s a hokey Tijuana brass Christmas album. I love how your blog celebrates the seasons–and the everyday.

  5. Perfect timing! We’re moving this weekend (into our very first house!) and I can’t wait to prep for the holidays. I’m excited to resurrect a tradition from my childhood – trekking out to a Christmas tree farm and cutting it down ourselves. This will be the first Christmas my husband and I will be spending at home, we’re usually staying with family Christmas morning, but now that we’ll be closer to everyone I’m so happy to be able to wake up in our own place and start our own rituals.

  6. A decorating day is a must for the festive season. I am however someone who likes to take holidays at a relaxed pace and take each day as it comes. It’s like establishing a specific day to put up the exterior lights only for it to rain that day.

  7. I do love holiday traditions! Some of my favorite include spending one evening the week before Christmas driving around the neighborhood looking at all of the lights; going down to the harbor all bundled up to watch the Christmas Boat Parade with a thermos of Hot Buttered Rum; staying in the other room while Matt puts the star lights on the tree with the LETHALLY sharp Moravian stars; and making fresh gingerbread (with Chantilly cream) for Christmas breakfast (wonderful smell!). I hope everyone is able to enjoy their favorites this season. Cheers!

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