Did you start feeling festive a little earlier this year? You’re not alone.
My friends and I started feeling the excitement and anticipation of Christmas in November this year! Unseasonably early.
What was going on?
It seems we are responding to a long year of uncertainty and change by looking to familiar rituals for comfort.
Associate Professor in Anthropology and Psychology at the University of Connecticut, Dimitris Xygalatas says the pageantry of holiday rituals sets these special events apart from more routine ones. It signals that the anxiety and uncertainty of everyday life can be suspended because at this special time we know what to do and how to do it. We can relax into the sense of structure, control and stability our festive routine provides.
Festive rituals in this anthropological sense of course include religious practices, but are not limited to them. Rituals can be any set of actions, often repeated, that are performed in a meaningful way.
In Western society we don’t often think of our practices as being ritualistic, but there are many common practices that have the ceremony and significance of a ritual. Activities like putting up the Christmas tree or exchanging gifts are examples of festive rituals.
Rituals provide a sense of familiarity, comfort and certainty, which are a soothing balm to the unprecedented challenges and changes of 2020. They also evoke a sense of connection as we partake in practices that are shared by others.
Rituals also help us mark time. They are used across cultures to mark change and define beginnings and endings. Celebrating the end of 2020 will be a significant marker for many of us, whether it be with a quiet night at home or at a COVID-safe event with special friends and family.
So if you’re feeling the urge to get festive and into the Christmas spirit, lean into it and enjoy! I’m off to watch Die Hard and make Rum Balls which has been part of my festive ritual for years.