To begin our first post of 2020, we'd like to wish all of our readers a most happy new year. With a fresh orbit around the sun ahead of us, and a hectic festive season now safely in the past, Lady M reflects on the traditions and rituals that make us.
Here we are in a new year and a new decade. The fridge bears only slithers of cheese, our festive hangovers are gladly becoming a distant memory, and it is not quite so acceptable to use Baileys for milk in our morning coffee anymore. That sensible, incumbent inner voice has been grumbling loudly for the past week or so, and we are begrudgingly compelled to agree that, ‘Well, it is Christmas...’ is no longer a rational excuse.
There is a lot to be reflected on in festive period we have recently endured. We all revel in seasonal celebrations to varying degrees, but the modern traditions of Christmas are exceedingly glitzy and wasteful, and often indulged in without much scrutiny or reasoning. At the fear of being called a humbug, we are expected to festoon our living quarters with shiny tat, endure the unctuous tones of Mariah Carey, and eat, drink and be merry on all occasions.
There’s panicked present buying, chaotic crowds, and portly red nosed men having their moment. There’s office parties, small piles of tinselly crap everywhere, and too many types of alcohol around to avoid mixing drinks. A little sparkle and merriment is much needed in the dark winter months, but by gosh, it is a frantic time of year.
So we emerge from this gaudy festive climax, bewildered and completely disorientated, in the monotone month of January. A year of fresh possibilities laid out before us; we bow to restraint, and start to reflect. What is life now we can no longer be drunk at 3pm? Have I been a gluttonous brute to the environment? Why did I think this much cheese was necessary? And what do I do for a living again?
At this time of year we are often harangued into self-improvement - which is certainly no bad thing if the excesses of Christmas are anything to go by. Perpetually harrowing world news aside, January generally affords little else to worry our comfortable selves about, so it’s the perfect time assess traditions, question old habits, and work out how we can do things a little better.
For those who sometimes question the hand-me-down ways that their culture has bestowed on them, there has never been a better time to consider something new. Thanks to that all-consuming beast called the internet, it’s easy to learn about the sheer range of traditions, habits, rituals and ideas that the human species has come up with. Of course, we are not suggesting that you go on a sweeping frenzy of cultural appropriation, or that you decide the basic ethical structures of society are just not for you, but there are certainly benefits to shaking off that which doesn’t work for you, and there is also power in cultivating the things that do.
Read about the morning routines of artists, discover how Pagans mark the changing seasons, observe what mourning looks like across the world, or why meditation is being taught in schools. Find out about the various genders that exist throughout the globe, why in Britain people run into the sea at Christmas, or what people have for breakfast across the world.
There would be much less opportunity for boredom or burnout if we took a more eclectic approach to choosing our traditions, and perhaps we would practice them with more thought and meaning. So spend a little time contemplating what rituals exist in your life, why they are there and what they mean. If you feel your days are lacking something, consider what new ideas you might implement. There may be a morning ritual that could enhance your life, a philosophy to help you gain clarity, a routine to organise your day, or an unusual way to mark something that needs celebrating. And if there isn’t, damn well make up your own!
Stare at the moon, walk the scenic route, dance when you get out of the shower, stretch, pray or find something to make you laugh each day. Next time you feel the unease of simply going along with the traditions and pastimes that society suggests, take a moment to question if it's actually enjoyable, healthy, or necessary. There may be another way that brings much more satisfaction.