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Barbara Biziou
Celebrating Family Rituals
by Barbara Biziou

We're all searching for a foothold in the past and for peace and meaning in the chaos of modern life. We all want to give our children a place of refuge and a sense of predictability. We all wish to make the difficult times easier and the unknown feel safer. Rituals have served these functions for ancient cultures; and rituals can now do the same for us, too.

The Joy of Ritual

Most of us participate regularly in rituals without realizing it. You may not think that a daily trip to the playground or a family breakfast qualifies as a ritual, but it does. I call them unconscious rituals. Sadly, while we do these things often and may even look forward to them as part of our routine, we don't recognize their significance in our lives.

Many ancient cultures have used rituals to strengthen their family ties and to deepen their relationships. For example, in South America it is a common practice for a mother or grandmother to bless each person as he or she leaves the house in the morning, with the intention of strengthening the family bond as well as each family member's connection to Spirit. In Mediterranean cultures, as in Italy and Spain, it's customary for everyone to come home for lunch. Dad leaves work, the children get a break from school, and everyone, even grandparents, takes part in a midday family meal.

Rituals can mark everyday moments or significant times, they can ease us through transitions and especially in times of rapid change, bring structure and stability into family life. Family traditions and rites help establish a common spiritual ground on which bonds can be forged-bonds that transcend age, gender, and individual interests. Indeed, a strong spiritual life can help a family achieve harmony even when there are unusual differences. As Annie, a mother who had adopted eight children from different countries told me, "Our family rituals bridge the gaps between cultures. They give us an even playing field."

We no longer have the option to look at life in the same way as our grandparents did. Change and transition are the only stable things left in our lives. As the world changes and the makeup of our family structure changes, we need to incorporate meaningful rituals that give substance and guidance to the way we will experience the world.

Children and Rituals

Rituals are particularly wonderful for families, because they bring adults and children together in a sacred space. If we take the time to stop and bless what we have--our loved ones, our food, our home--and to honor the seasons of change, both within the family and on the planet, we can learn to appreciate each moment and gain happiness from living in the fullness of the present.

By using rituals, we help ourselves and our children make better sense of the world. They begin to regard even the mundane--a bath or family dinner--as sacred moments of connection and togetherness.

We must educate our children and ourselves about other cultures and races. Our country is truly a global village and to ignore this fact leads to the disintegration of any real communication for the future. It will be more and more important as we move into globalization to make sure our individual identities do not get squashed and homogenized.

Think of it as weaving a tapestry. Each one of us brings our own unique flavor to the whole. This is the source of our creativity. Without this, our world will be a dull place to live.

Wisdom of the Elders

For thousands of years, the elders of a tribe contributed to the education of the children. They shared their wisdom, stories and expertise and were a valuable part of the community. In fact, in many cultures even today, the grandparents are sought out and highly respected. Especially in Africa and Asia, becoming an elder is an honored position in society. Just think, in Hawaii, one is not considered wise until they reach the age of 80 and then there is a great ceremony to honor them.

It is about time we appreciated this resource in America. We can now "adopt a grandparent". What a gift this is to the kids who desperately need guidance and unconditional love. Grandparents are tutoring children in schools, caring for foster-care kids and sharing their skills and years of knowledge. Kids have the opportunity to learn about history from those who have lived it.

Wake up and Acknowledge Diversity!

It is time to acknowledge this diversity. Why not create stepparent's day or "gotcha day" (the day you adopted a child) as I describe in my book The Joy of Family Rituals? The more we celebrate diversity, the more we will feel connected and part of something larger than ourselves.

When holidays come along, we all think we want the Leave it to Beaver nuclear family complete with grandma baking cookies in the kitchen and the family dog playing with the kids, but the new family rarely fits that description. It is no wonder depression is ramped at these "special times of the year. Why aren't we seeing more advertisements with Jamie and his grandparents as well as Susan and her two mothers?


Unfortunately, when most of us commemorate holidays, we rarely think about, and in some cases don't even know, that many holidays--"holy days"--were originally created to mark the changing of seasons and other happenings in nature. Even worse, as our celebrations have become less about meaning and more about material concerns-getting presents or wearing new outfits-holidays can be both stressful and laden with unrealistic expectations.

I would like to suggest that this year let us celebrate from our hearts The most meaningful rituals are those that strengthen our relationship with The Divine. Such practice helps us to develop the spiritual muscles that ultimately strengthen us in the face of life's greatest tragedies. I pray we all can develop conscious spiritual practices capable of sustaining us during these challenging days ahead and help us to better navigate these uncharted waters.

Sacred Rituals are as Basic as All Other Survival Skills.


Open your heart

• Pray

• Create sacred space wherever you are using elements from nature, a picture of your Beloved Deity or favorite sacred image--anything that connects you more deeply to your heart.

It does not matter if you are in a temple, home, mosque, church, school or office. Spend time wherever you find solace.

Rituals are for the good of all sentient beings
Manipulation must never be used. Rituals are about aspirations. Do not use sacred ritual for revenge or manipulation

Have a Clear Motivation
Intention is the purpose of the ritual
Focus your intention.

Consciously creating rituals can keep us centered in the present, allow us to transform the past, and inspires us to re-imagine our future.

The Joy of Family Rituals

Appreciation Ritual

Intention: To honor yourself and others

Ingredients: Purple Candle (spirituality), essential oils of orange, lemon, lime in a diffuser or a bowl of warm water (or cut up oranges, lemons and limes in a bowl) shells, stones, crystals (abundance)

Recipe: Take a few moments to reflect on how far you have come this year. No matter what your life is like at this moment it is important to acknowledge any and all progress that you have made. Don't forget the baby steps!!!

Light the candle to acknowledge that you are part of a larger plan--spirit directed (whatever that means to you). Inhale the cent of the lemons, orange and lime and let the aromas heighten the sense of joy and happiness in your life.

Take a shell and acknowledge aloud the qualities that you have developed that added to your success. Now take another a shell for each person who has contributed to your life. Nothing we do is in a vacuum: true collaboration, partnership and acknowledging our friends, family and co-workers is the key to real happiness.

Follow–up: Sometime in the next week, make sure to call and/or write to share your appreciation with those special people in your life. Give them a shell and tell them what you appreciate about them.

We cannot underestimate the power of friends, family and community at this time. Our bonds of connection are our lifelines.

Holiday Rituals

• Hug more people

• Take time to connect and make every encounter meaningful whether it is your bus driver or local shopkeepers.

• Create alters to peace and wholeness

• Do simple prayers every time you light a candle

• Find a meaningful way to serve others and your community and world.

• Be mindful

• Celebrate the winter solstice

• Be open to the wisdom teachings from all religions.

• Attend a temple, church, mosque or Kwanza celebration.

• Share with others what is most important to you-give gifts from the heart

• Play music, dance and sing.

Let us come together in the strength of our diversity and the wisdom of our difference. We are all being called to live in authentic ways. We will walk through this new gate together in compassion and caring.

 © Copyright 2001 Barbara Biziou.  All Rights Reserved. 

Maple Leaf
Barbara Biziou, America's foremost ritual expert, teaches us how to restore ritual to its rightful place as food for the soul. Through practical, easy to use ritual recipes that are powerful and inspiring, Barbara teaches people how to effect remarkable changes in their lives. Since 1981 she has traveled the globe, showing individuals and companies how to incorporate spirituality into their hectic lifestyles. Whether you're releasing fear, creating a new career, bringing deeper meaning to a family or community gathering, or celebrating life's passages, her books, The Joys of Everyday Ritual and The Joy of Family Rituals, are like wise best friends that can reconnect you to your heart and soul.

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