Mindfulness at Celebrations

A Post Pandemic Restart


Maybe it’s just us, but we feel like the idea of “mindfulness” is a seriously overused idea. Of course, mindfulness can help calm you by helping you be present in the moment, aware of the events around you, and conscious of your feelings. But if you’re anything like me, holidays are more a time for stress than of zen. So we’re going to unpack it a bit to see what elements of mindfulness can help us recognize the “moments in between” our family gatherings, and really seize the opportunities to embrace the beauty in family traditions.


Lockdowns have forced us to distance from family, and re-evaluate relationships. I’m actually writing this while sitting in my childhood bedroom, finally reunited with my parents after 2 years of not seeing them... and I am motivated to deepen those connections in the time I have while I’m physically with them. At least for me, the pandemic has taught me about the fragility of life, the importance of connection, and has made me re-evaluate what I truly value.


Presence or Attendance?

As the world opens up, and we ease back into the larger gatherings, we can use this re-start to try to be present and not just “in attendance”. Leveraging holiday gatherings and celebrations is a great way to pay attention to the dishes, traditions, customs, and conversation in order to re-immerse oneself with your culture. So, to honour our roots and preserve our histories, we can practice mindfulness in an effort to recapture the traditions of the past. And the best part is, it’s never too late to start.


We think our friend Paula said it best: “It's been really fun to, all of a sudden in my thirties, reconnect to the roots that I've always had in me. It's not that they had disappeared. It's just that I hadn't been paying attention. I was focusing more on trying to fit in, than to understand ‘where did I come from?’”.


Being present is one of the most important things we can do at holiday celebrations in the coming months. In these reunions and multi-generational get-togethers, we have the opportunity to reconnect with not just our families, but with our heritage. By engaging in conversation, being open to listening, and eager to ask questions, incredible the stories, histories, and memories that will start to flow.


This idea makes us recount a conversation we had with Kathy after she completed a Photo Documentary Series with her grandmother. She reflected, “I have a lot of friends who are Chinese, who will celebrate the key festival dates or holidays with their family, but they just come over, have dinner and then leave. There are a lot of conversations that happen in between that are deeper and more intimate, that I feel are very important to have and embrace and ask the questions of ‘why?’.”


Asking Why?

The world has changed, and if you’re anything like me, then you have changed too, so don't approach the holidays the same old way. The biggest present you can give is your presence (I know, “dad joke” but seems appropriate as I’m living with my dad again!). So practice some mindfulness at your next gathering. It could end up in quiet observation, a raucous sing-along, or a fireside retelling of childhood antics. Whatever it is, if you look deeply enough, you will likely find a nugget of your family culture that is worth cherishing. So be bold, and inquire:

  • Why does Nana always tell that story? And instead of shrugging away the retelling, why not dig deeper?

  • What does music mean to our family? And what songs have been passed down?

  • Who have I not spoken to in a while? Have I asked them about their happiest memory of this holiday?

  • where did our family celebrate this holiday a generation or two back? How might it have evolved?

Kathy reflected, observed, and asked questions. What she learned has changed her. She recounts, “One of the things that we do for many of our celebrations is prayers. When I was younger, I would just wait my turn for my grandmother to summon me over, pass me three incense, and tell me to bow my head three times while she made the prayers… and once we were done, I’d walk away. I never asked to understand what I was doing. But as I got older, I started learning about the significance of the prayers and why we were doing it, and what it means. It just brings so much more value to that experience.”


Think about something you are going to do, or a question you plan on asking at your next family gathering. Share it below! We love hearing your ideas, and even more, we love hearing about what you learn.