What little rituals make holidays special for you?

  • By Sarri Gilman Special to The Herald
  • Tuesday, November 20, 2007 8:10am
  • Life

Love it or hate it, the season starts now. In my attempt to find meaning in the holiday season, I am struck by the small things. These are the things that don’t command the stage during the holidays. These small things may be where the sustenance and meaning are found.

This year for the holidays I am paying attention to the little rituals we catch ourselves doing.

One of my favorite things that I do every year is to make time for lunch, a walk, a long conversation with each of my friends. Sure, it’s the busiest time of year for everyone, but I remind my friends that I do this each year, on purpose, during the holidays. I must see each of them before the new year starts. And while some grumble about all the things they are trying to get done, they usually accommodate my request. This is one of my favorite holiday rituals.

I think back to years of holidays and think of all the lunches, the walks and even the times I spent just wrapping gifts with my friends. The fire was going, the gifts were piled everywhere, the wrapping paper covered the floor and we spent hours catching up. Catching up on all of it, the holiday wrapping, a couple of hours sitting and talking heart to heart.

Another favorite thing I do is go out for a long walk while everyone else goes shopping. The roads and trails are empty. I spend the time catching up with just myself. Sometimes I walk really far and up really high just to remember that a quiet, peaceful place is part of the whole thing too.

The little rituals that sustain me are everywhere, including on the table during the family meals. There is a specific string bean dish always on my Thanksgiving table. When my friend Jay’s mom died he spent his first Thanksgiving after her death at my holiday table grieving. He taught me how to make the string bean dish his mother always made. It has been more than 20 years since Jay’s mom passed, but the string bean dish is always on my table. It reminds me of what we truly give to each other, the love and the memories.

I also find comfort in the little rituals that aren’t even my own. We are all surrounded by each other’s little rituals during the holidays. Around the corner from my house, there is a school that has a really cool ritual on Thanksgiving. I work at this school so I know this ritual well. Every year on the Thanksgiving, the physical education teachers open the gym to the school and invite all the kids and their parents to play games on Thanksgiving morning. What a beautiful thing.

These are the things that I look forward to in the holiday season. It’s all my little rituals. Sure, there is some cultural and religious frame softly carving an outline around the experience, but the picture inside the frame is filled with all these small rituals. These are the big things for me in the holidays.

I would love to hear about your little holiday rituals — the ones that are personal, the ones that you have created on your own. Send me an e-mail and I will share them in an upcoming column.

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. She is a therapist, a wife and a mother, and has founded two nonprofit organizations to serve homeless children. You can e-mail her at features@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay walks into the Prohibition Grille along Hewitt Avenue in Everett Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012 while reportedly filming an episode of Kitchen Nightmares at the Everett restaurant. (Mark Mulligan / The Herald)
Even more films and TV shows filmed in Snohomish County

Readers point out projects previously missed in this series, from reality television to low-budget indie films.

Daniella Beccaria / for The Herald

15-month-old Kantu attempts to climb a pumpkin at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Sunday, September 20th, 2015. Stocker Farms offers a U-pick patch, farm animals and a corn maze.
Best pumpkin patch in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied, here are the results.

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Death of parent with child. Piece of paper with parents and children is torn in half.
Helping children cope with the hard realities of divorce

I’s important to set aside one’s feelings and find a way to make this challenging transition as comfortable for children as you can.

In Belgium, each type of beer has its own glass – whether wide, tall, or fluted – to show off its distinct qualities.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bruges brews lift a weary traveler’s spirits

The Belgian city is a mecca for beer lovers from around the world.

Children’s author Barbara Herkert to lead Story Time at Edmonds Bookshop, Friday September 29th, 9:30-10:00 am!
Author to read her new kids book at Edmonds bookstore

Author Barbara Herkert will read “This Old Madrone Tree” Friday at Edmonds Bookshop.

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

Most Read