Personal Reflection – Winter Festival

I really enjoyed this Winter Festival. I enjoyed all of the lights and the holiday music (I’m a sucker for good choral music). I enjoyed getting together with friends and family. I did at one point catch myself feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. I started to feel unhappy precisely because of the pressure I was putting on myself to be happy during this time. I think this is a common experience and is what leads people to say they don’t like holidays. But it is also a problem which is easily solved if you just change the way you think. I think holidays should be seen as opportunities, not requirements. You don’t have to do anything particular on any particular day, but you are reminded of things which you might want to do. Once I remembered that and took the pressure off myself to celebrate perfectly, I was able to loosen up and really enjoy the Festival.

During our New Year’s Eve party, we participated in the two main rituals we suggested. This was particularly meaningful for me because it was the second year that I had done those things. It is amazing how quickly an activity becomes traditional. I found myself looking forward to the rituals and thinking about what I wanted to leave behind and what I wanted to take forward. Then, when the time came, the rituals themselves didn’t seem strange and artificial. They seemed like the natural thing to do at this time of year. I can’t wait to see how I experience them next year.

I also did some longer-term rituals on my own throughout the whole two weeks of the Winter Festival. The idea here was to set apart this time as special, to mark it as a liminal space and so reinforce the feeling of a difference between the old and the new. I thought long and hard about what form these rituals should take, and in the end I’m not sure I came to a satisfactory answer. I knew I wanted them to really break up my everyday routine. But should they be connected to my resolutions or otherwise geared toward making my life better? If so, should they be about establishing new habits or suspending old ones? Or should they be totally arbitrary and just focus on setting the time apart? Does it even matter? On the one hand, building habits early might make them easier to adopt. On the other, going big is sort of antithetical to the research I read about how to make good resolutions. You’re supposed to start small and build up, so making a particular change for two weeks with the expectation of lessening your commitment to that change seemed like it could set you up for failure. In the end, I settled on three liminal activities: I watched no internet t.v. (the suspension of a bad habit), flossed every night (the establishment of a good habit), and slept in a sleeping bag on my bed (totally arbitrary). I think they all accomplished the goal of setting this time apart. I did get something extra out of the habit-focused ones, though only time will tell if I’ve set myself up for failure. I’d love your thoughts on how to practice these semi-long-term liminal rituals.

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