Practicing Meaningful Rituals

Rituals don’t need to be complex to be meaningful. Look closely at your current rituals to see what’s working—and what can improve. Consider these ideas:

  • Place—Where do your holidays and celebrations take place? Do they occur at someone’s home? At a restaurant? In a park? Having a safe, nurturing, predictable place can add meaning to your ritual. To see this, ask your child what he would think if Thanksgiving was no longer held at his grandparents’ home. You may be surprised about how that sense of place gives children a sense of belonging and predictability.
  • Food—Which foods are associated with a particular holiday or occasion? Which foods can be replaced with other foods that may bring more meaning? One family that had members who were vegetarian began cooking two turkeys for Thanksgiving: one that was an actual turkey and another that was made out of tofu.
  • People—Which people attend the celebration? How can you encourage people of different generations and families to talk and share time together? How do you honor the absence of someone, whether that person is deployed for a military assignment, is sick, or has died?
  • Cultural connections—Many families show their links to their ancestral cultures by including recipes, rituals, songs, and activities from the “homeland.” Whether a family eats Indian curry, Mexican tamales, or Scandinavian lutefisk, these connections anchor the family in their cultural heritage.
  • Decorations—The way you decorate for a holiday also adds meaning to the holiday. Do you light candles? Are there decorations on the table? On the walls? At the door? Decorations are visual symbols of what’s important.
  • Activities—Which activities mean a lot to you and your kids? Some families play card or board games on holidays. Some go for walks through the neighborhood. Some volunteer together. Find activities that get people connecting, laughing, and enjoying being with each other.

All holidays and special occasions combine different places, foods, people, cultural connections, decorations, and activities. Think about which ones your family’s celebrations include. Do these combinations work well? Could you make any improvements? Ask your family members, and make sure to include children.




Great article and ideas! We often don’t realize how much our tradition mean to our kids. They often tell me about the traditions we have…that I didn’t even realize we had! They love consistency and seek it in our lives.

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