What are rituals and why are they important?
Rituals are things that we do on a regular basis that add a special meaning to a normal event or action. Why do we share rituals? Important rituals shared with family and friends are able to turn ordinary and practical events into something with a special meaning. Through performing the ritual, deep emotions can be stirred in us. This adds depth and meaning to the action, which is often a very simple act in itself.
Can you give me an example of a ritual?
Some religious rituals that you will easily recognise are: the use of incense in a Roman Catholic ceremony, lighting a commemoration candle for a dead loved one, and Buddhist Mantras and Meditations. These are all rituals. People all over the world use these and other rituals on a daily basis in one way or another.
Are rituals only used in ceremonies?
Not at all! Most of you will have your own personal and important family rituals which you carry out regularly, even daily.
For example, you might wear a ‘lucky charm’ – a favourite item of jewellery given to you by someone you love that invokes special feelings in you. You might read a bedtime story to your children every night at the same time and with the same ‘bedtime ritual’.
Some families have a special ‘Saturday Evening Family TV time’ ritual. This kind of routine and ritual gives a sense of control, and adds order to our often busy lives. It’s well known that children thrive on routine and ritual.
Think of bedtime rituals that help children to calm down at the end of the day and prepare them for bed, like getting bathed and dressed in pyjamas before having a warm drink and a biscuit. Sitting quietly, before going upstairs and being read a bedtime story. This is an important ritual that prepares the children for a well rehearsed daily event.
Why do we share rituals with children? Rituals like this help them to order and make sense of their world and prepare them for something – in this case settling down to sleep. The child understands the ritual and it becomes an expected part of their bedtime routine. You can probably think of some rituals from your childhood that brought a lot of affection and meaning through these family rituals. And you probably take part in them now with your own children.
How do rituals help us as adults?
We are all creatures of habit and any kind of change can be naturally stressful. Why do we share rituals as adults? Even simple rituals are very effective and important in helping us to cope with changes.
Important rituals performed after experiencing losses, like lighting a candle every morning in remembrance, may be simple but can reduce anxiety and feelings of grief.
Very often sports people have a ritual that they always go through before an event. It’s usually an important ritual to calm their mind and keep them focussed on the task ahead.
So, rituals give us a sense of order during the changes in our life and help to induce a state of calm. This creates a safe place for us to experience our feelings, whether they are happy or sad.
Community rituals and ceremonies
Community ceremonies are important rituals that help to bind us together with our family and social group. The rituals help us to connect with each other as we all take part actively or as just as witnesses.
Doing the activity together brings us closer to our social group or family as we share the experience. Most people love taking part in these occasions with family and friends when we come together to celebrate major life changes with our community, and the people that matter most to us. The rituals used during the occasion gives it much more importance and makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. It’s no fun celebrating your birthday and blowing out the birthday candles on your own is it?
What are rites of passage?
During our lives we go through many changes. Transitions from one stage of life to another. Sometimes these are known as ‘rites of passage’ and include things like Birthdays, Namings, Graduations, Hen Parties, Weddings, and Funerals. They are all important life-changing events.
During these Ceremonies small rituals are carried out, for example at a birthday celebration blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, and the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ is still a recognised and important ritual to share with friends and family. There used to be one that I always dreaded – ‘birthday bumps’ one for each year of your age carried out by school-friends, but thankfully I think that one’s died out!
Do rituals have to stay the same?
Family rituals can change and evolve over time, and your ‘Christmas tree decorating as a family’ ritual won’t be as popular with your children as they become teenagers. A new ritual or an old one adapted to the occasion will replace it and become a part of your family life.
Can I have rituals in my Wedding Ceremony?
These days many people are not particularly religious and therefore religious rituals don’t have the same appeal or importance. But you can create enjoyable new traditions and symbolic rituals with the help of a Celebrant. Celebrants create wonderful ceremonies with meaningful and important rituals to share with family and friends. They’re often a modern version of age-old customs, continuing the customs into another era. Sharing these rituals in ceremonies with your family members and friends as you celebrate life’s milestones creates more meaning and stronger community and family bonds.
What important rituals can I share with my family and friends?
Handfasting, Wine Ceremony, Candle Ceremony, Jumping the Broom, Sand Ceremony, are all very popular rituals which add something special to a Wedding Ceremony.
They are non-religious, and therefore suitable for anyone. They bring something personal and unique into your ceremony as you celebrate with family and friends and the ritualistic element adds another deeper level to your celebration.
If you and your partner are from different Nationalities or Religious backgrounds and want to include elements of your religion or your culture in your Wedding Ceremony no problem. A Celebrant can do this for you. As a Celebrant is not restricted by rules or religion, nothing is out of bounds! The Ceremony and rituals will be a true reflection of you.
I am a Celebrant based in the Heart of England. I create ceremonies to celebrate and commemorate all life events
If you’d like to find out more, and to see if a Celebrant created ceremony is right for you get in touch with me for a chat. I’d love to hear from you.