For the past few years we’ve been trying to develop some family rituals. It’s been a slow process, far slower than I ever imagined it would be, but we are closer each year.
Rituals provide anchor points for the day, week, season and year. They give us a sense of continuity in our lives and the best ones link us with the earth. This is something I think modern-western city-living people have forgotten that we need.
Rituals also, as with stories, provide people with an emotional link to others. We become part of the group of people with whom we participate in the ritual and, with those rituals which endure, with people of previous generations. Many regular attendees at places of worship speak of the comfort of attending a different church/synagogue/ mosque/temple within the same religion and still experiencing much the same ritual. It can be comforting when in a new place, or when visiting, to experience that sensation of being in a home away from home…even if you don’t ‘meet’ with anyone after the service.
But we’re a secular family. We have our beliefs (which I’m not about to discuss here) but they are not institution based. This leaves us, as well as many others in the western world, with a void.
Daily rituals are not a problem: we eat together at least twice a day and we have great routines. Weekly rituals are yet to be found and decided upon. Seasonal/equinox rituals are celebrated well by the boys’ school with harvest, mid-winter, spring and advent. But Easter and Christmas are public holidays in New Zealand and our seasons don’t fit those of the northern hemisphere. It’s difficult to link baby chicks and new life with autumn. It’s not that easy to have a festival of lights in the middle of summer – when it doesn’t get dark until 9.3opm. Hence my motivation to set up our own.
For Easter the past two years we made our own buns on Good Friday. This year I found a recipe for Passbrod, a Dutch bread that I believe is made especially for Good Friday. Considering that Craig is half Dutch and, by default, the boys a quarter Dutch, it seemed a logical addition to our day. I have intended for the past five years to plant bulbs on Easter Saturday…I even managed to buy the bulbs this year…but none are yet in the ground…On Easter Sunday we have the grand chocolate egg hunt, which for our boys is more exciting than actually eating the chocolate. I know what I’d like our Easter rituals to look like…but we’re not quite there yet.
With late Easter this year, we ended up with a clash of rituals – and I’m not sure how we would get around it in the future. You see, All Hallows in October – the middle of spring – doesn’t make a lot of sense in the Antipodes. Besides I’m not really into the commercialisation of a ritual meant for remembering and honouring the dead. Halloween leaves me cold. To get around this I thought we could have our own All Hallows week during the last week of April. We have our major remembrance day on the 25th April ( ANZAC Day) so it made sense on that level too. The days tend to draw in about now (It’s teeming with rain as I write this…the first decent rain of the autumn/winter) and it feels right to be taking the time to remember those who have died. With the Christchurch Earthquakes and The Pike River Miners disaster as well – the older boys have had a year of being exposed to death in a way they never have before.
But this year our All Hallows week clashed with Easter and posed a bit of a problem since we were away at Mahia Beach over the long weekend. I just haven’t been able to get the atmosphere right. I had pictures of our loved ones who recently died laminated with their names and DOB and DOD on them. On the back I wrote how they were connected to our family, so a source of information for genealogy in the future. I hung each memory-card from some thin autumn branches which I put into a vase. They’re not very attractive branches mostly green with crunchy dead brown bits around the edges. I would have preferred maple with its variations in colour – but that’s something to work on for next year. We have a candle as part of the display and the Hare and the Owl both want to carve pumpkins. But we’re already half-way through the week and I haven’t managed to buy the pumpkins yet! Oh dear.
So, our rituals are a work in progress. Unlike religious traditions which have been passed down through the generations we’re creating our own. There is a great sense of satisfaction in that. We’re drawing on history and we’re drawing on myth, and we’re making it all work for us here and now in the 21st century.
How about you, what family rituals do you have to anchor your family?
And any ideas for weekly ones…I’m a bit stuck there.
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