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Rituals Help Ring In the Season with Thankful Moments

Decorate the house. Spin the Harry Belafonte record. Light the candles. Watch “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.” Eat all the things. Rinse and repeat.

Does it feel like the holidays yet?

When exams and deadlines start taking precedence over craft days and movie marathons, we indulge in the time-honored rituals that make December feel like it’s double-dipped in a sparkling candy glaze of weeks-long holiday bliss, even those customs like, say, watching a scrambled VHS tape of 1988’s bizarre but indispensable “Christmas at Pee-Wee’s.” Why? Because rituals actually work.

Experts have found that performing rituals actually enhances our experiences. But you certainly don’t need a psychologist to tell you that taking part in traditions can make you feel happier, or at least more festive. Even during the glitzy, ritzy holidays, it really is the small things—the Thankful Moments we make and share—that give the season heart.

With that in mind, here are 8 holiday rituals we’re thankful for.

TV Marathons

From 24 hours of “A Christmas Story” to back-to-back episodes of “Law & Order,” there’s nothing quite like taking a whole week to kick back, eat leftovers and catch up on your favorite story lines.

Baking Cookies

There is exactly one time of year in which you can bake cookies without inquiry and eat them guilt-free. It’s actually weirder to not be making or eating cookies on any given day in December.

Lighting Candles

Whether it’s tea lights, the shamash or that pine-scented pillar you bought because your place is too tiny for a real Christmas tree, lighting candles is reverent ritual and a perfect way to seal a prayer or set a mood.

Sending Holiday Cards

It might be years before the kids choose the same split second to look at the camera. Still worth it, though.

Singing Songs

From “Silent Night” to “Sevivon,” launching into a tune you only break out once a year signals to you and the universe that it’s time to start feeling festive.

Going to The Mall

Yes, the holidays are too commercialized. And yes, there’s far too much seasonal consumption. But where else can you enjoy a piped-in Burl Ives and a “snowstorm” every hour, on the hour?

Giving Service

The holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year for everyone. Luckily, December presents plenty of opportunities to serve those less fortunate. Taking some time to volunteer or prepare a gift for a stranger is a perfect way to create a Thankful Moment for yourself and for someone else.

Family Time

By far our favorite, there’s no better time of year reconnect with family and friends that feel like family. Most of us get at least a little time off, and there’s usually plenty of turkey or General Tso’s chicken to go around.

For some, these customs set the tone for 30 days of celebration and at least a few hours of relaxation. For others, holiday festivities highlight the year’s disappointments, or underscore the absence of loved ones who are no longer around. This December, why not share some holiday rituals with someone whose heart is aching? You’ll create a new cherished tradition—a Thankful Moment—that will endure long after your last candles flicker out.


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