By Lynn Jericho
Issue: Fall 2008: Social Health - Issue #53, Vol. 13
Finding The Meaning of Your Traditions
The Fall is rich with favorite holidays. We have Halloween with costumes and trick or treating, Thanksgiving with food and gratitude and the Christmas and Chanukah Season with more traditions and activities than we can imagine. Each holiday requires its own activities, decorations and foods.
Holiday clutter develops when we follow traditions out of boring habit, shallow sentimentality or retail seduction. Our holidays often end up cluttered with meaningless stuff. Magazines and shops seduce us into feeling we must add to our holiday experience. Obviously many people spend money, and make money, expanding and inflating holiday traditions. We head to the store and not to our hearts to bring new richness to our celebrations.
How do we get rid of holiday clutter? How do we create elegant holidays? Elegant means graceful and simple. Can we balance the materialism of our holidays with some self-awareness and spiritual attention to our sense of the meaning living in our traditions?
I must make a confession. Years ago I was moving with my children to a new home. Packing up a household is always a good time to clear out and de-clutter but it must be done wisely. Finding the boxes of Christmas decorations brought back all the ancient history colored by divorce and, especially the lonely nights trying to make the perfect Christmas celebration. In a gesture of careless liberation, I threw out all the boxes. However among all the decorations that had no meaning, there were some that held special significance and emotional continuity. I had tossed out the meaningful with the meaningless. I was foolish.
I offer the questions below to help you sort through your traditions, to help you connect deeply with the meaningful. They support you in recognizing what is merely holiday clutter. These questions can guide the choices you make in enriching your holidays with new traditions.
If you go through three or four of the 12 questions with three traditions, you will find a new level of discernment and holiday joy living in your soul. You will find yourself naturally grasping the meaning living or lacking in all your traditions. Ask family members what their feelings about the traditions are. Invite a few friends over to a pre-Halloween (or Thanksgiving, Chanukah, or Christmas) tea and use these questions to share traditions and inspire insight.
You might find most of your traditions have heartfelt meaning for you and your family, but there are just too many of them. You can divide up your traditions into three groups—the extra-special group that must be part of every year, the traditions for the odd years and the traditions for the even years.
I have designed the questions around the Twelve Senses described by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf Education. Our perceptions of and sensitivities to all the varied aspects of our holiday traditions are the source of our joy and our difficulties. The nature of the questions will give you a sense of each holy, soul-shaping sense.
Does this tradition wrap my soul with special feelings? Does this tradition push against my material life with deep spiritual symbolism? Or does it represent the positive or negative impact of materialism on my soul life?
Does this tradition restore my soul, feed my soul, comfort my soul? Does it enliven my holiday with delight, depth or devotion?
What is the goal or purpose of this tradition? Does the tradition bring me to a inner stillness or to a new movement in my soul?
Does this tradition create a balance between spirit and matter? How does it create spiritual or emotional freedom for me?
Does this tradition still have inner freshness for me? Or is it musty and old? What are the memories that this tradition brings into intimate connection with me?
Sweet: Does this tradition bring me sweetness and make my life free of suffering––even for only a moment?
Sour: Does this tradition wake me up to things I might forget or not notice?
Salty: Does this tradition crystalize an inner experience of the divine for my soul? Does it crystalize beautiful memories?
Bitter: Does this tradition heal a pain or suffering? Does it bring a lesson?
Yuk: Does this tradition lack all meaning - giving you a “yuk” experience? Is it in bad taste to continue with this tradition?
Does this tradition color my soul and brighten my sense of the holy? Does it illuminate the shadows of my soul? Does it focus on the meaning of the holiday?
Does this tradition take the chill from my heart? Do I let the warmth of this tradition permeate my soul? Why do I experience this tradition as warming?
Does this tradition offer sounds that stir my being? Does it bring harmonious music to my relationships?
What are the single words or phrases that come to mind about this tradition? Does it represent a simple gesture or form that shapes a meaningful holiday?
What are the ideas and the ideals behind the traditions that I love? Is there a story behind the tradition?
Sense of the True Being of Others
What is the true authentic being of those I share this tradition with? How does each tradition give me a truer sense of these individuals?
Holidays are holy days ... and are most joyful when they make our consciousness more awake to the holy in our lives. Traditions provide us an empowered sense of the sacred. Holidays offer an emotional thread holding our memories together. De-clutter your holidays and give your soul a more joyful and meaningful experience.