Holiday Rituals – Old and New

UUC Members and Friends,

We have entered into that time of the year my mentor, Rev. Dr. Lindsay Bates, called “The Silly Season.” From late October through early April, the calendar is chock full of holidays and holy days. Every faith, and those faithfully-unaffiliated, too, find themselves celebrating a host of special occasions over these months. Just on our secular calendars, we have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s. Happy Holidays, indeed. Pick any modern day religion and you can add at least one and perhaps a half-a-dozen celebrations to the mix. It can be exhausting at times. It can also be exciting. There is a reason we pack this time of the year with gatherings and rituals. At least in the northern hemisphere, the weather is colder, the days shorter, and the nights darker. It is no wonder we look for reasons to light lights, break bread together, and spread cheer to one another.

This year, of course, is a different story. For us in the United States of America, the pandemic is in full swing– worse than it has been all year. It is expected to get even worse in the coming months. And so we must find safe ways to celebrate our holidays. New ways to gather and spread cheer. We need the lights in the darkness, the warmth of our family and friends now more than ever, but we must be creative in how we craft our celebrations and rituals.


Our worship on Sunday, December 13th, “‘Tis The Season”, will be one of my holiday traditions that I am offering to you. A service entirely of seasonal stories and songs. It is something I have done every year for over a decade, and I’d very much like to share it with you this year. If you want to participate in the service, take a short video of a beloved tradition or ritual you have this season– and send it to me. Or, if you want, just email me and I’ll set up a time when we can zoom and I’ll record it for you. I’ll put together some of the submissions you send and we’ll share in each other’s holiday traditions.

Celebrating St. Nicholas

In the Catholic Church, the feast day of Saint Nicholas is December 6th. St. Nicholas is often thought to be the original inspiration for our modern day Santa Claus. He was a religious cleric who gave up all of his wealth to give presents and gifts to those in need. In many countries in Europe, families celebrate St. Nicholas’ day by putting shoes out by the front door or hanging stockings up– which will be filled with candy or small presents. Some celebrate with donations to charity.

I wonder if any of you would like to participate in a bit of St. Nicholas inspired celebration here at UUC? If interested, you would be given the name of someone from the congregation who also signed up. Sometime in the next few weeks, you would do something nice for your person. Send a card? Call them up and sing a carol? Shovel their driveway? Leave candy on their doorstep? Who knows?… just something to bring a little holiday cheer. If you want to celebrate St. Nicholas with me, please send me an email at

UUC Rituals Re-imagined

I’ve been told this congregation usually celebrates the holidays by decorating or “greening” the sanctuary in a grand fashion. There is usually a mitten tree. And on Christmas Eve, the service includes candles lit as we sing Holy Night. While we are still unable to meet in the sanctuary together safely, we can still participate in these beloved traditions– we just have to re-imagine them a little. Here is what I’ve imagined:

A volunteer or two decorate the sanctuary so we can at least get pictures and video of it. Members and friends are invited to sign up for specified times to visit the sanctuary, at which time they will be invited to place a personal ornament or decoration on the tree, and pick up one of our candle & bobeches for each person in their household. Then, on Christmas Eve, as part of the service, we will have a video of our tree bedecked with mementos and ornaments from all of our community and we will each have candles to light at home as we sing Holy Night together.

How does that sound? Do you want to try it? If so, will need some help.

I will need someone to get out the tree and the decorations. Someone or someones to safely decorate the sanctuary. Someone to set out the candles and bobeches for people to take home. And some folks willing to sit in the open sanctuary during the chosen times.

I hope to hear from you… and I hope we can make these new rituals a part of our holidays.

Cooperatively and with Good Cheer,

Rev. Craig Schwalenberg