As a society, we seem to have lost an important focus on ritual and special occasions. Granted, there are religions and cultures that do maintain very strict and consistent rituals around birth, coming of age, marriage, and death, but on the whole, there are many people who not participate in the "rhythm" of life, marked by rituals and systematic focus on blessings and life changes.
We call some holidays "hallmark moments" suggesting that the holiday was created to encourage us to spend money on cards, meals, flowers, candy, and anything else, but that really undermines the "roots" of the ritual or holiday. Not appreciating the opportunity to focus on something or someone also robs us of an opportunity to come together as a family and reflect on our blessings, progress, or achievements. Rituals are meant to provide peace and connection - not "goods." Celebrating together is important to everyone, but especially to teens and families, because of all of the changes happening while our children grow.
Most holidays can be traced back to an important transition in the seasons or a life. Birth (Spring), harvest/success (Fall), coming of age (Summer), and death (Winter). We live with an important rhythm, the coming of morning (birth/Spring), day (meals, work, harvest/Fall), evening (fun, Summer), night (sleep, rebirth/Winter), week, month, and year that if incorporated into our lives provides structure and support, as well as connection with others, most notably, families and communities.
We all need that connection - just look at the social networking boom. We look for people who are similar to us, experiencing something with us, who have kids the same age as ours, share a status/label, or who love the same things we do. I cannot help wondering if this search for connection is a consequence of not focusing on the most obvious things (the rhythm) we share with everyone on this planet.
If we started each day with a list of our blessings, prepared our food and did our work with appreciation, celebrated coming back together with our family for dinner, took a walk through our neighborhood in the evening, greeting our neighbors, and ended the day with gratitude for another day, it seems that we would stay more conscious of what we are blessed with.
That gratitude lends itself to appreciating others and ritualizing their role in our lives. If we were thankful each day for a loved one, when it was their birthday, we would naturally want to celebrate their completion of another year on the planet - but there does not have to be a dime spent.
Rituals include every member of the family contributing something to the food, music, people and an activity focused on the "event" or "person" being celebrated. It is the "focus" that we appreciate the most - not the "goods." A special meal, greens or flowers from the yard, a house filled with a favorite music, and kind words make a person feel special, and most importantly, appreciated.
What is interesting about rituals, if we choose to participate in them, is that they make us think, slow down, and be conscious of our actions, all great things that reduce stress! Teens especially need this time to focus, remember they are loved and slow down. If a holiday or special occasion is stressful, I suggest you stop, think about the point of the thing, and then get back to focusing on the purpose - the stress will vanish! Be well! Be grateful! Celebrate!