Each family has its own rituals. Some are complex and require going to a church or synagogue or temple. Others are simple, needing only the family and their personal space. There are as many ways of performing family rituals as there are families!
A great family ritual begins with a central idea. What are you celebrating? Take the time to define the reason for the ritual, and make sure everyone knows it. This helps everyone, young and old alike, in truly being a part of the ritual as opposed to simply attending it.
Create a visual focus. An altar is a great way to focus people, especially the very young. There is no right or wrong about setting up an altar, and you are limited only by your imagination. A good altar might include a statue or image that represents Deity to your family, an altar cloth of some kind, a candle (or many) to light the space, some incense or essential oil, and some water and salt for blessing and cleansing.
Rituals should engage each of the five senses. Sight is easy, because you can see everything around you, but try to have items that are only used in your family ritual that you can bring out. Have a specific image of your Deity or a special candle holder, which helps set the tone.
Your hearing can be brought into ritual with a piece of quiet music, soft singing or chanting, or even raucous playing of drums. Children especially enjoy making sounds with bells, drums and shakers, and it allows them to be fully a part of the ritual.
Your sense of smell is important, too. Use a light incense if you like, or a scented oil in a burner. If artificial scents are an issue due to asthma or allergies, you might consider something like eucalyptus (which has beneficial effects for sinus problems) or natural flowers.
Accessing your sense of taste during a ritual can be fun! Share a loaf of home-made bread, a special cheese with crackers, and some juice or wine. You might decide to make the meal itself your central focus, in which case your table could double as your altar. The sky is the limit when it comes to sharing food together, which really is one of the earliest rituals we know of.
Touching happens throughout ritual. You touch the altar items, the food, the candles. You also touch one another, holding hands for prayer or songs. You could try something different to mix it up, too, such as sitting in a circle with everyone's feet touching instead of hands.
Spirit, while not a sense in the strictest sense, is what lies behind the ritual itself. As a family engages in ritual, they also engage in touching one another's Spirits or souls. There is a special closeness that arises from sitting together in silence, worshipping. Holding a little one in your lap while meditating might seem difficult, but it holds its own charms.
Ritual is what you make of it. Make it something special, something amazing to share with your family. Make ritual a theme in your new year!
If you're interested in learning more about prayer, or reading about local prayer events in Keene and the surrounding area, follow Rev. Allyson here (click the subscribe button) or on her blog, The Temple of Joy. If you have any comments or questions, don't hesitate to ask in the comments below, or by e-mailing Rev. Allyson at email@example.com.