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Reindeer & Rituals

Reindeer & Rituals

A Tsaatan child asleep on his reindeer - Photo: Pascal Mannaerts.
The Last Reindeer Tribe

As another midwinter comes around, here in London we navigate our way through a mad medley of Christian, Pagan and Capitalist rituals – from turkey dinners, consumer shopping frenzy, carol singing and leaving carrots out for reindeer.  In the face of seasonal overwhelm, how can we find ‘peace and goodwill’ with Midwinter rituals?
Let’s call in Scrooge’s three Ghostly friends to help us.


Christmas Past
Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and histories  – Miller Williams
Ritual can offer us a connective story-line through time and space - the ritual of posting photos preserves millions of memories on instagram everyday.
I’ve recently had the great honour of conducting St Christopher’s Hospice Choir at two beautiful Remembrance Services.  These powerfully simple services are attended by hundreds of people who light candles, sing and remember together.  Singing in the choir is a healthy, weekly ritual where singers can safely share their feelings with others who have experienced bereavement as part of their recovery.
I've also just completed four wonderful terms of maternity cover at Heart of the City Choir - and trust that the warm connections we have shared will continue in many forms, including participation in cross-choral events including a magical forthcoming Festive Winter Voices Concert in aid of Sydenham Arts.  
My present-day experiences of leading choirs in these diverse settings across London connects me to people and places I still hold in my heart - to my Christmases Past singing around the piano with family while my grandparents were still alive and the beauty of candlelit carol services in my hometown of St Albans Abbey.  Through ritual, we can chart landmarks in our own journeys through time. 


Christmas Present
Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.
- Terry Tempest Williams 
As the saying goes, the best present you can give is your presence – and effective rituals are a space where we can enjoy harmonising shared presence – whether it’s volunteering at a Soup Kitchen or partying with friends. Shared rituals build shared communities – at the recent Croydon Diwali Mela in Surrey Street, I was spotted happily singing along with the Gayatri Mantra by a member of the Hindu community who was curious to know where I learned it and to share about his experiences.  Turning up for this ritual brought me gifts of understanding and connection.
To turn up and engage fully requires a process of tuning into which rituals which feel true for us - for me, that means turning down the volume on commercial clamour and decorating the trees in my garden rather than chopping one down.   We can reinvigorate traditional rituals to make them relevant to our modern communities - as part of Festival of Peace Croydon, we are posting pictures of peaceful cultural and arts activities with the hashtag #PeacefulCroydon during December.  

Christmas Future

Resolutions need rituals – Tony Robbins
Rituals can offer us moments of present moment reflection on what we want to create in our lives – whether that’s the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions or taking time out to meditate or exersize before the day begins.
In my choirs we’ve been enjoying singing the Finnish Reindeer Chant - Ole le loila – which brings out a sense of playfulness when we imagine a stampede of reindeer responding to our calls.  In our rituals we become playful, creative, imaginative – and in shifting our present, we create space for something new to happen - the reindeer will surely come any minute now - and in Finland they really do!  
When children play, they repeat the same pleasurable experience - ‘again, again!’ – creating their own rituals.  We are all still children inside and we need magic, playfulness and creativity to lighten our days and the long winter nights.  Changing our reality together in a shared ritual enables us to call in the reindeer or our dreams for the coming year.

Chosen well and infused with our conscious, creative presence, ritual can enable us to remember, become present and create a beautiful legacy for and with our families and communities.


Wishing you all a beautiful midwinter that resonates with your heart’s desire

Remembrance Service, St Christopher's Hospice, Bromley