Rituals are a hallmark of what makes us human. Whether they take the form of a tea ceremony, a coming-of-age dance, or a Sunday supper, they help us center on the things most important to us. And in times of stress, tumult, or change, they ground us.
Though spring and summer promise lighthearted celebrations like musical festivals and fireworks, fall and winter rein supreme when it comes to rituals. The bounty of autumn harvest, the crisp weather that heralds in bittersweet bursts of color and death, the luminous winter holidays from most major religions — these seasons provide endless inspiration.
Most people learn their first rituals from their families and larger communities. These are the big, universal traditions: waking early on Christmas morning, praying over a meal, leaping into a pile of leaves. And then we begin to make our own, whether intentionally or by happenstance. We eat an ice cream cone on the first day of summer because it seems like a nice thing to do, or we buy ourselves a fancy bottle of wine for our birthday, because it represents the kind of lady we want to be. And sometimes, like when a family matriarch dies or a relationship ends, we create traditions out of necessity. Because we need to hold on to something, anything.
As a fairly recent adult, I have just started creating my own rituals. Some of mine are habits I would like to solidify (unplug 30 minutes before bed), and others are things I do simply to make myself feel happy (a glass of wine and music while cooking dinner). And then there are a few that are specific to fall:
- Listen to Sleepy Hollow on Audible, as read by Tom Mison, the dapper star of the Fox TV series of the same name. Must be a rainy day.
- Bake every weekend if possible (while listening to the Waitress soundtrack)
- Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- Do the MOST for Halloween, which is pretty much a holiday created for theatre kids
I am often an anxiety-ridden bundle of emotions, running on fumes. This may sound dramatic, but I am who I am. Rituals help me focus, bring certainty into my life. They give me the mental bandwidth to be creative. They help me let go of worry thoughts. Most of all, they make me feel human. I’m not just a random sequence of atoms floating aimlessly in our unfathomable universe. I’m a woman who drinks a glass of wine while cooking, who attends Bikram yoga three times a week, who listens to an 19th century novel on the first perfectly dreary day every fall. I live deliberately, thoughtfully, meaningfully.
“Purpose” comes to mind.
Love and theatre,