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Holiday Cheer Makes the Rounds at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital

Spiritual Care Chaplain Rekindles Annual Interfaith Tradition Throughout December

When the holidays roll around at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, so does a festive spiritual care cart pushed by Chaplain Hannah Rhiza, MDiv, BCC. Trimmed with sweets, fruit and lights, the cart brings Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah to hospital staff members where they work. 

Rhiza can’t roll far without being stopped by someone admiring the snowflake sugar cookies, red and green kinara candlesticks, or mound of golden doughnut holes neatly assembled on the cart. Eyes light up and shoulders relax at the sight of holiday joy in the hospital. 

“It’s a really great opportunity to bring different faiths and different holidays and celebrations to the hospital,” Rhiza said. “It means a lot to me because it is so well received. It's not the food on the cart, it's not how it's decorated, but just the openness to learn more and to embrace.”

The Cedars-Sinai Newsroom joined Rhiza as she prepared the cart for her rounds to learn more about this holiday tradition at Marina del Rey Hospital.

What is the spiritual care holiday cart?

The holiday cart is an opportunity to celebrate all the major holidays of the month of December. It’s an extension of the normal spiritual care cart that we offer the staff, but we kind of put a little twist to it. It's three different tiers. The first one is Hanukkah. We have Krispy Kreme doughnut holes, individually packaged, and chocolate. We have a dreidel and gelt that are packaged together with little instructions on how to play the dreidel game, and a summary of Hanukkah. The second tier is Christmas. We have Christmas cookies, chocolate, a little Nativity scene and a summary of Christmas. The third tier is Kwanzaa. We have the kinara candles, a bowl of fruit, chocolate and a description of Kwanzaa.

Chaplain Hannah Rhiza, MDiv, BCC

Spiritual care looks really different for everybody. Being in an interfaith setting, we really believe that it's important to bring other holidays and celebrations and narratives into our conversation.

Chaplain Hannah Rhiza, MDiv, BCC

Why did you start this new tradition?

We started doing it December 2020, during the height of COVID-19. It was such a hard time, and we really wanted to bring the spirit of holidays back to the staff on the units. Everything just seemed to blur at that time, and we wanted to bring staff a little bit of joy and warmth. Rather than doing one cart for each holiday, we put everything all together looking at the month of holidays as a whole.

How do you share the cart with staff?

We'll roll it to each unit and kind of station there for a little bit for anyone who wants to interact with it—staff, patients and families. When they come and engage with the cart, they might take the little holiday treats, but they generally gravitate to the holidays they aren't familiar with and use it as a learning tool. For example, I've had staff members really just get excited about the dreidel and gelt and the little instructions on how to play, saying that they want to bring it home to their kids so they could introduce Hanukkah. It has been really inviting as a learning moment, and it's gone beyond just routine holiday cheer.

Why was it important to continue this tradition after the darkest days of the pandemic had passed? 

Spiritual care looks really different for everybody. Being in an interfaith setting, we really believe that it's important to bring other holidays and celebrations and narratives into our conversation. The holiday cart may have started because of COVID-19, but it's powerful and a way to continue spreading that joy. With the different schedules of the staff, not everybody might have had a chance to experience it. It's also welcoming for newcomers. It's just a nice way to have that presence in the hospital. It has made a lasting impression on me—out of all the different carts that we do at the hospital—of how welcoming the Marina family is, and that desire to be inclusive and learn more.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Joy to the Ward—Spreading Holiday Cheer in the Hospital