Routine, Ritual & the Winter Break Ahead

Routine, Ritual & the Winter Break Ahead


Shortly before Thanksgiving Break, I resuscitated my on-again-off-again mindfulness meditation practice. Seeking new inspiration and guidance, I downloaded the Headspace app to coach and record my mindfulness activities. I start each day listening to a brief lesson before a mellifluous voice guides me through ten minutes of meditation. One recent morning lesson stuck with me – it was hard to focus on my breathing and not the insights offered before – the difference between routine and ritual.

Each evening in our house, the person who did not cook dinner cleans up the kitchen and preps the coffee maker for the following morning. Once we convince the boys that it REALLY is time to head down to bed, they brush their teeth, floss, and put on PJs. These are just two of the routines in our household. And, to be honest, flossing has only recently made it into the routine category. 

These daily practices are important but are not rituals. Rituals have both greater intention and meaning. Inspired by the Headspace lesson on routine and ritual, I have started to light a candle at dinner. In doing so, I am trying to mark a difference between dinner and the rest of our day. In lighting that candle I say to myself “Now is not the time to think about the rainy day recess schedule or the need to write a new blog post for the website.” The intent is to bring me into the present moment and inspire the rest of the family to do the same. Once the candles are blown out, routine life resumes, and Robin or I head to the sink to start the dishes. 

Over the past two weeks, we have heard from our students and families about many religious and cultural celebrations held in December. From all school Gathers about Hanukkah and Christmas to class presentations about Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and other traditions, we have heard stories that share the common thread of ritual. Regardless of faith, for most people this month is a time of ritual. 

As your family heads into winter break, I encourage us all to pause, name, and talk about the rituals in which we participate. In doing so, we can bring even more intention and meaning to those moments. This also allows us to mark the time as different – and perhaps more memorable. Winter Break will pass too quickly for many of us. Moments of ritual, though, will last in our memory and bring our attention to the present moment. Time in the present moment is, perhaps, the best gift that we can give ourselves.

But now I have to plan the meals so that I can do the cooking – I hate doing the dishes!

Read More