Make a holiday out of Gratitude
No, I am not talking about Thanksgiving. I am talking about another holiday that rests its foundation on love and gratitude but you can take it and make it your own. Meet our Indian holiday, Raksha Bandhan. The exact date changes every year with the lunar calendar but it is always in August. The holiday is clearly rooted in a masculine dominated society as it revolves around sisters thanking brothers for "taking care" of them and in turn, the brothers show their love for their sisters with a present or kind acts and vow their oath to "protect" them. When my feminist self takes over, I wonder how we can still practice such a one sided, patriarchal show of sibling love. But when I just accept it as an act of love and gratitude, albeit outdated in terms of gender hierarchy, I revel in it.
Sisters show their love by tying a sacred red thread around their brothers' wrists. As children, I tied this every year on my two brothers' wrists and now I mail them as I am rarely with either brother at the right time. I include a note of my love and gratitude and they place the thread on their wrists. The sweet thing is that they never take off the thread themselves, allowing it instead to wither on its own and come off of its own will. I secretly treasure this act on their part. It feels like the sacredness of the bond we have, symbolized by this closed thread, is never modified by external forces.
I repeat this holiday dutifully with my own children. My daughter ties the thread on her two brothers and the circle is completed once again. They feed each other sweets symbolizing the sweetness of this special bond and some presents are exchanged. (That was of course, my favorite part as a young girl but now there are rarely presents for me and the holiday still gives me joy.) In fact, the picture above is one of their hands on this holiday. In this one, my daughter made them her own "threads." We often also tie a thread on a close friend who feels like a brother. I am sometimes moved to do this and did so this year. I sent a letter of gratitude and a thread to someone who feels like a brother to me, like a caretaker of my soul really. I hope that when he reads this today, he will understand even more what this meant to me.
It may sound simple. A thread is tied, sweet food is exchanged, hugs and love shared. But the meaning is far greater for me. It is a moment to stop and express gratitude for what you share as siblings, a relationship like no other. It is a chance now for me to write a letter of gratitude to each of my brothers, feelings I don't often express in words to them now. Not often enough for sure. And we know how powerful letters of gratitude can be. In fact, small studies have shown that the powerful effects of gratitude from writing a letter to someone can be felt EVEN if you don't send the letter.
Think about that. You can write the letter, never send it, and get all of the benefit. So there really is no excuse to not think of incorporating this kind of holiday into your life. Even if you feel silly, you can do it all by yourself! What if we all committed each year to send letters of gratitude and sacred threads of our bond to someone we love? Just one person? Maybe it's someone who that year really has touched or helped you. Or someone who has gone out of their way for you. You can create this own holiday anytime of the year for anyone you choose. Empower yourself to bring gratitude into your life in a regular way.
We can create our own rituals of gratitude and when we do so, we create more sacred moments of connection in our life.
Think about it and let me know if you can make a commitment to do this. I happen to have a holiday that reminds me every year but there's no reason you need a holiday. An ordinary day can be transformed when you make it extraordinary. Gratitude does that, it transforms something simple into something special. That's the secret sauce of gratitude that makes every day better!