Monday, May 13, 2013

Why Rituals Are Important

Yesterday, Mother’s Day, as we sat waiting in the restaurant, the subject of rituals came up. Real unexpected like. The catalyst was the blessing of a cross that one of the moms mentioned taking place at church that morning. A small tete-a-tete (head to head) occurred between a devout doubter and this mom. Hmm. It got me thinking.

Here’s one dictionary definition of the word:  A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
This makes me think of baptism, bar / bat mitzvah, graduation, various kinds of “pinnings” and so much more, some of which I’ve participated in. The “prescribed order” is usually one of long standing and few of us had input at the setting up of these rituals, but we go for them anyway. Why?

Bonding – Through the instruction that goes before the ritual we learn about all the other times and other people who have been through this. We learn the why of the ritual. We are encouraged to love that why. Take baptism, for instance. You may argue about when it should be done, but you can’t deny that it occurs worldwide and has brought millions into God’s fold. For centuries. One common ritual that bonds, with water and the Word, a large chunk of humanity. How awesome is that?

Initiation – A ritual has consequences that we sometimes cannot understand until some other scenario or conversation opens our eyes. Like, “You were thirteen when you first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show? So was I!!!” Okay, you now know that you are not alone and are a part of a society of wonder where all things are honored and shared in relation to that one movie. Because you’ve gone through this initiation, so to speak, you have something in common with this other human in front of you. And if you don’t think there are ritual aspects to seeing Rocky, well, just go see it.

Vowing – A ritual seals an idea or belief. Take weddings for example. The prescribed order may vary but the basics remain, including a vow to another person. That vow shows the importance of that idea or belief not only to the “vowers”, but to society as a whole. It shows that we are serious about making and keeping promises to each other. It involves trust and loyalty, faithfulness and love and employs witnesses to add gravity to those vows. When these things are held in reverence, the general welfare of everyone is promoted. Really.

Ridicule – Whoa! Hit you upside the head with that one, huh? I use the word because of the ridicule that sometimes erupts from those who feel no need of ritual. And so I’d like to stretch the definition to include other things. Like running. At a certain time, using certain equipment or attire, in a prescribed order, with even (if you will) a vow of sorts. The purpose of the running ritual? To be initiated into the circle of “the fit.” The vow is to health and well being and I applaud it. But at the same time I’d like some respect for what I hold dear, too. It’s not too much to ask. A smile and a nod would do.

So, diatribe over. Mother’s day is past for a while. More rituals are coming up, though. I’d love to know about the ones you hold dear.

Image: sippakorn                                                                            Free Digital Photos


  1. Such an interesting post, Sue. I love the family rituals we have in our life over different holidays: birthday parties when my whole family sings Happy Birthday loud and crazy ~ all out of tune and all at a different point in the song. I love the ritual of going to bed, the kiss goodnight, the hope for a good night's sleep, the feel of the cool sheet and even the cat jumping up on me. I love the ritual of our family picnics ~ Memorial Day, Father's Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day ~ me and my three sisters each hosting one of them. I love Boxing Day when my husband and I get together with his two sisters, opening our stocking gifts first, then our Christmas presents and then indulging in the spread of food Marion has set on the table. I love the ritual of a funeral or memorial service when you listen to the readings and beautiful songs that person who's gone chose or their family chose. I love the ritual six days a week when the Bill the Mailman brings us mail and we hear the clank of the mailbox. And I love the ritual of reading your blogs and learning something or causing me to think more deeply about the simple things in life.

    1. Oh, Cindy, what a lovely picture you paint! You've mentioned some of my favorites. My evening ritual is to hit the recliner after my hubby goes up to bed. I'll watch a few shows and then get out my current book. If I don't do this ritual I feel cheated. Funny how we humans are, huh? Thank you soooo much for the boost. Really need it. Love you.

  2. Goodness. I suppose we have more than I realize. But a small one we enjoy is this: after one of the boys performs in a school program (elementary through high school), we go for ice cream afterward. They love this. Last night, we got to do it again. There in the seats, five of us watched and applauded the one on stage. Then all six hopped into the BMV (Blue Mommy Van) and trundled off to the local DQ (you know) for IC.

    As College Grad is living on his own now, I don't take these times for granted.

    1. Oh, Rhonda. One out of the nest, huh? I'm sure he'll miss the family rituals, too, but think of what he'll have for reference when he's got a family of his own. And that can come at warp speed as every mom knows. Thanks for chiming in. Hugs.