December Rituals

December Rituals

I suspect that many people have rituals – a set of procedures – they follow during the holidays and the end of the year. We see our parents doing certain things each year and find ourselves doing similar things when we have our own household.

Things like when is the right time to put up decorations, or which cookies to bake, and countless other preparations that almost take on a life of their own. And for a number of years that is the way we do the holidays in our family.

My main holiday ritual was baking cookies. I had maybe half-a-dozen cookies that I only made for Christmas: frosted and decorated sugar cookies, mint surprise cookies, almond crescents, spritz, made with a cookie press, were all recipes I had made with my mother. Over the years I added new ones and stopped making the ones that took too much time.

As we moved around the country, buying or making gifts early, wrapping them, and mailing them became another ritual of sorts.

Working at the Livermore Veterans Hospital had its own set of rituals: the Saturday when the volunteers put up decorations, the groups that visited the patients with gifts and goodies, Santa’s visit on Christmas morning. It was fun, and my part was to escort the visitors around and be sure all my vets got their handouts.

Twenty years ago, when I bought my house in Stockton, I added another December ritual to my calendar. I call it “Leaves to the Street.” Right next to my house is a huge sycamore tree. It is my summer air conditioning system. The dinner-plate size leaves shade my house all summer.

And, of course, in December they fall or blow off the tree. Sycamore leaves from my tree are like leather. They do not decompose. If I don’t remove them, they will be here next July.

San Joaquin County has a leaf removal service to keep the leaves out of the storm drains. All I have to do it get them into the street before one of the two pick-up days. I get lots of exercise getting them to the street. And I have a system. I rake a small area and put them into an old wheeled trash can which I wheel out to the street and dump on the pile.

Monday’s strong winds blew the leaves into piles here and there so they are easier to pick up without a lot of raking. With my big tree, it will be the first week in January before the leaves are all gone. It doesn’t take much thinking to get the leaves into the street.

So while I’m doing that, I’m going to be thinking about what direction I want to take in my studio. I know I need to do some cleaning up in my art space, so how can I make it better? What supplies am I wanting to work with? Are there supplies I should pass on to someone else? What size work feels comfortable to me at this time? Do I have anything started that needs to be finished? Do I want to show my work next year? Where?

What creative projects are you eager to start after your December rituals?



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