My parents grew up in Germany and had many wonderful holiday rituals that they brought with them when they emigrated to Canada, for example, wreath making to celebrate Advent, baking stollen, German Christmas carols, and going to church on Christmas Eve. Over the years, they adopted new ones too, like cooking a turkey, and decorating the tree a few weeks before Christmas as opposed to decorating on Christmas Eve. The rituals of any holiday celebration touch our senses, which helps us to encapsulate the memory that, over time, can stir many feelings. The sensual imprinting of holiday sounds, tastes, smells, touch, and sights evokes a fondness and a closeness to my parents and relatives, even if they have passed on. This feeling of “close to” is how I describe the power of an attachment relationship. One Google definition of attachment is: a deep and enduring emotional bond between two people in which each seeks closeness and feels more secure when in the presence of the attachment figure. To me, the power of rituals and traditions is that I can feel a connection to my ancestors and a closeness to my parents where my feeling is “light” or more thoughtful, calmer. It can be subtle when I’m decorating the tree with my adult children, or it can be more evocative when I’m baking my mother’s recipes. But even more so, my children are also connecting to the sensations, in a way that I don’t have to teach, it just is. That is the beauty of evoking the senses, it’s in the biology, and that also reinforces our connection to others – attachment. Over time, my children have dubbed a meal or a game or activity as our tradition. This is their way of establishing their connection to our nuclear family that makes them feel included. As well, they have come to learn and enjoy some German traditions that are part of their heritage. It gives them a foundation from which to explore their own beliefs and traditions.
Over time, I too have amended some traditions by adding a vegetable dish I like better, or opening our main present Christmas morning (reluctantly, I had to concede to my husband’s tradition). And when a family is engaged in traditions, I see my children uphold a level of respect that came from honouring their past in the present.
So I ask you:
- What are some of your rituals and traditions from your childhood?
- How do you feel when you remember them?
- What ornament or baking symbolize that the holidays are here?
- When you are engaged in a ritual, who do you think of?
Wishing you a sensory-filled Holiday season! And may you feel close to those you love even if you can’t be near them!