Sometimes routine leads us to the real magic

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 1/2/20

One year ago, at this time, I must admit, I was in a bit of a funk. Not full-blown Scrooge, mind you—not so much “Bah, Humbug” as “meh, whatever.” There were several external factors …

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Sometimes routine leads us to the real magic


One year ago, at this time, I must admit, I was in a bit of a funk. Not full-blown Scrooge, mind you—not so much “Bah, Humbug” as “meh, whatever.”

There were several external factors contributing to that mood: the weather was less than seasonal, the school calendar had us pushing performances up through the 21st, and, with the kids getting older, the typical magic of the season was missing around the house. But, really, none of that was the reason for my funk.

See, I have a handful of routines that I like to indulge around the holidays. I love going out at night and walk/running several miles, just to see the Christmas decorations in the extended neighborhood. I like having a day that is set aside for the express purpose of baking. And I have a book that I like to read and handful of movies and television shows that I just have to watch during the season to get me properly situated for the big day.

And, for the record, “Die Hard” is one of these — yes, it is a Christmas movie, for all you Scrooges out there. Yippee ki-yay!

Anyway, for some reason, the combination of all the other things around the schedule conspired to interfere with those routines. So, I never quite found the spirit last year. I don’t know if my family noticed—I’m not sure they’re that attuned to the various shades of my grumpiness. But, I noticed, and, a couple nights ago, as I was indulging one of those routines, I got to thinking about the importance of those routines. Some even call them “rituals.”

I know all about rituals, though my appreciation of them is a relatively recent development in my life. I grew up Catholic, and, if there is one facet of American life still steeped in ritual, it’s the Catholic Church. As an arrogant young man, I never understood the purpose of the sitting and then standing and then kneeling and then standing and then sitting and … Plus, so much of the Mass was repeated every week that it felt to me like it was on auto pilot.

But, I get it now — just as the Buddhist has their mantras, mandalas, and mudras, the Catholic (and many other Western religions, including Islam) has their rituals, as well. Simple practices, often repeated, that help the practitioner achieve a desired mindset.

For my mother, the words of the Mass that she knows so well aren’t on auto pilot — they are deeply ingrained in her very being, just like a three-step drop, release are to Peyton Manning or the B-flat Blues is to a jazz musician. Rather than being any sort of a limitation on the experience, this sort of ritual is an entry point to the deeper experience they seek.

For me, “Die Hard,” Christmas lights, “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby and the voice of Karen Carpenter, “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” and the smell of cinnamon pine cones are the evocative entry points to the deeper Joys of the Christmas season. And, what I learned last year, is that when I shortchange those entry points, I never reach the destination.

By the time you’re reading this, it’s probably too late to do anything about this Holiday season. But, that’s not the only purpose of any of this. I’m sure if you give it a little bit of thought, you can imagine a time, place, or event that fuels your soul and gives you the energy to go forward.

Consider when that moment has been most important to you, and think about the steps you went through to prepare for it. That was a routine. And, while you can never recreate exactly what has been, it is possible to recreate the conditions surrounding important moments in time.

Seek those conditions, and, perhaps, the magic will find you again.

And, in the meantime, Merry Christmas and the most Joyous of Holiday Seasons to you and yours!

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at, on Kindle, or through” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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