When we think of a the word “ceremony”, the first thing that pops into most people’s mind is a wedding. The white dress, flowers, elated bride and groom, tossing of rice or rose petals. Actually, if you Google the word “ceremony”, the first several entries are, in fact, about wedding ceremonies.
But thinking just of weddings does a huge disservice to the purpose and importance of ceremonies in our lives. Ceremonies are ANYTHING that intentionally mark a transition in life ( wedding, funeral, baptism), a special occasion (a birthday or anniversary), or a remembrance (think 911 Memorial Service).
Ceremonies have a unique and crucial role in our lives. They mark the momentous as different from the ordinary. They allow us to step outside of the everyday monotony and have a common focus. They are signs of respect for an effort, an accomplishment, a choice or a person. And ceremonies allow us to connect and share an experience with others we love.
I have always loved ceremonies…parties, celebrations, weddings, etc. But it is only through my ongoing training as a life-cycle celebrant that I am learning the role they play in the human race. If we do not mark parts of our life as special, important, critical, we risk moving through life without a sense of growth or change.
Perhaps it’s never been as obvious to many of us as it has been these past several months with Covid in our midst. Everything from weddings, graduations (high school, college, and even preschool), even funerals have been cancelled or minimized. Family reunions, vacations, annual girls’ trips are all ceremonies of sorts, in that they separate an event out as extraordinary and different and special.
I have seen some of the most creative and fun alternatives to traditional ceremonies these past few months, but what concerns me are the people who have ignored the need to celebrate or pay tribute, simply because it cannot be done in the “normal” way. Graduation is a rite of passage for us today, not too unlike the walkabouts of other cultures. Memorial services allow us to show our love for one who has died, to be a support to the family, and is often a crucial ritual in the path towards healing. Without acknowledging these important transitions in life, we risk thwarting our ability to move through the change with a clear vision and purpose.
We don’t know how long this different life of ours will remain different.
What we do know is this…ceremonies are created by individuals, not by institutions.
If we are unable to do something the way it has always been done in the past, it does not mean we don’t still need to do it. We must challenge ourselves to find unique, creative and alternative ways to mark the days of meaning for ourselves and others. Now more than ever, we need to separate the special from the mundane, the extraordinary from the common. Starting with our families, those closest to us, we can begin by making time for unique accomplishments to be recognized, for commemorating the little things (that once celebrated, become less little in our hearts).
When we don’t recognize the remarkable, the uncommon, we risk living without the magic that is life.
There is so much in life to celebrate, so much about life that is far from mundane or boring. Celebrate life by observing the extraordinary…it’s all around us, and we’ll all be the better for it.