Whether they are religious or secular, performed alone or in a group, rituals have more power than one may think.
As I am heading to my annual family reunion in the East of France to celebrate Saint Nicolas, a less known but just as over the top celebration as Christmas in terms of presents and food, I find myself thinking about rituals.
This is the highlight of the year for the family. We are about 30 people spread all over the country and beyond, and it is the one weekend no one is allowed to miss. As a kid I just saw it as a great feast with tones of presents, a wonderful family time, but never really read much more into it.
As I grew older I started to feel the “weight of tradition”, how important it was for me that everything went exactly as it always had. It was almost visceral, everything had to stay the same: the time we would arrive, the way we would spend the day, the food we would eat. I was holding on to these rituals like a life preserver. It was my bearings while everything around me was constantly changing and evolving throughout the years: my studies, my career (or lack of), my personal life, people I loved passing.
Rituals are more than just a”knock on woods”, they give you something to come back to, hold on to in bad times, but also a space to celebrate in good times. They help create cohesion within a group, give a sense of belonging to a community, a family, real or made up. It creates a safe place or moment for you to share with others or to keep for yourself. Rituals comfort us and give us a sense of control over our lives.
This time around though, I have more perspective and I chose to let go. I accept the fact that rituals are important to me, essential even, but that they are not irrevocable and can evolve and accompany us as we grow older and, hopefully wiser.
By: Mo Oléron