Rituals anchor people. They give us a sense of continuity within a day, a week, a year and between generations. Our brains, which love anything with a beginning, middle and end, need rituals to feel content. But these days it can be a challenge to include meaningful rituals in our children’s lives.
One of the many reasons I love our boys’ school is their understanding of this need for ritual. It’s the end of the school year and last night we had the annual Carol Service. It’s a gorgeous ceremony, with the main focus being the passing of the guard. The graduating 18 and 19 year olds walk with the not yet year Class One (six and seven-year olds) students through the crowd, along a stretch of carpet and introduce them to their new teacher.
Each year, the teenagers are formally dressed, and the youngsters are dressed all in white and carry a Christmas lily, which they give to their new teacher. The procession easily takes up half the proceedings – but it’s worth it.
Last night, the Hare and his friends watched out eagerly for children who were the little ones when they were at kindergarten – now joining the school, and the Owl sat with me anticipating his turn next year. (We left pesky pants Mr Butterfly at home with his Dad.)
This ceremony bonds the students together in a way I have never seen in any other school. The sense that they are all one begins with this ritual and carries meaningfully over into the school culture.
At home, our regular rituals happen around food. They’re the easiest ones to sustain. We all have to be up early so we eat breakfast together informally. The evening meal is more formal with a blessing, either religious or mother-earthy:
Earth who gives us Food to eat,
Sun who makes it ripe and good,
Dear Sun, Dear Earth,
By you we live,
Our loving Thanks to you we give.
And the children are expected to excuse themselves properly at the end of the meal. I read yesterday that children who, as a rule, eat with their families are far less likely to be involved in dodgey behaviours as teenagers. For me, that alone makes it all worth the effort.
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