Make a new ritual this holiday season

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 23, 2022

The Atlantic recently carried a wonderful interview with Faith Hill, a senior associate editor in its Family section, on how to enjoy the holiday season any which way you want. I found it compelling, perhaps because holidays often seem so stressful for so many, on account of the multiple competing demands crammed into the brief interregnum between start-of-the-holiday and end-of-the-holiday.

Reading Ms Hill, however, it’s clear there is another way, should we choose to take it. The highlights of some of her ideas are below:

On rituals, old and new: “We often think about a ritual as something that happens to us, or that we have to earn once we’ve been doing something for a long time. But if you set out to create a ritual and you see what sticks, you might learn a lot about what you love to do. And really, a ritual is an activity that you imbue with meaning. So just by calling it a ‘ritual’, you’re deeming it special.”

On making “alone time” rich and meaningful: “You can think of it as the rare chance to decide how to spend your time without having to negotiate with other people. You’re getting to know yourself. I think a lot of people associate solitude with boredom or anxiety. But you don’t need to be a purist about solitude. You can do an activity; you can watch a movie. The world is rich and engaging, and you’re a part of it.”

On making holidays more than to-do lists: “It’s true that the holidays are a time that’s supposed to be fun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are always fun. [In] Catherine Price’s book The Power of Fun [she] defines fun as involving three elements: playfulness, connection, and flow, or undistracted engagement. But she also talks about ‘fake fun’  We have this idea in our head of what is supposed to be fun, but it’s not necessarily what actually feels good or is playful or is letting us connect. So my advice would be: Pay attention to what is actually feeling worthwhile and fun. Inevitably, there are some holiday obligations; it can’t all be fun all the time. But if you’re able to monitor how you’re feeling about things, you can start to figure out what you’re actually doing for fun, and what you could cut out of your life or your holiday routine…One thing that’s come up in my reporting lately is how much Americans tend to prioritize work and productivity, and deprioritize the kinds of play that aren’t just social engagements you can check off a list (which is another form of productivity).”