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Rituals (and Traditions): Why?

This past week has been filled with experiences that have impacted me deeply. Several of them, I have come to realize, are associated with rituals.

The first was on Passover, April the 5th. A friend invited a few of us to a Passover Seder.

It is basically a religious service set around a dinner table, where the order in which we ate, prayed, drank wine (grape juice 😁), and did readings was predetermined by religious practices.

I had no idea what to expect, but it was beautiful, reverent, and deeply comforting that this same ritual was being observed all over the world by millions of people. I will say that the parsley dipped in salt water almost made my dramatic self spit it out and start choking. I hope you're proud of me that I didn't!

This Seder was a large group, about 30 of us. I was so moved by the ceremony that I suggested to my friends that next year we do it in a smaller, more intimate setting to make the experience even more meaningful.

The next day, Tim and I went to visit our son Michael in Flagstaff, AZ. We spent the week exploring his new hometown and traveling around for Tim to shoot some epic sites: Grand Canyon, Sedona red rocks, and bison. During our travels, we had some pleasantly surprising moments.

The first was when we saw a sign in Flagstaff on the side of the highway for the Elden Pueblo, an archeological site of an ancient Sinagua (Sin ah’ wa) village, inhabited from about A.D. 1070 to 1275. Using an online guide, we walked around 15 marked locations learning what each site would have held. One of them, seen here, was probably a Community Room used for gatherings and rituals.

As we walked, I envisioned how crucial these rituals were to the community, often ensuring their very survival!

The final experience was truly on-the-fly. We were driving through Navajo Tribal land in New Mexico and kept noticing these small, circular structures. Finally I Googled it.

These are ancient structures known as "hogans", a sacred site for the Navajo people to practice traditional religion. Today modern homes and mobile homes are common on the reservation, but families also construct a hogan near their dwellings. Many of the Navajo ceremonies can be conducted only in a hogan.

We saw so many of these with so many variations on construction material, color, etc. But, again, I envision the bonding, the comfort, the peace that accompanies the ceremonies that occur within.

I included traditions in my title, because I began thinking, what's the difference? So I researched and found a great article, Rituals have been crucial for humans throughout history – and we still need them.

Here's their explanation:

In scientific terms, a “tradition” refers to the passing down of customs and beliefs from one generation to the next. A “ritual”, on the other hand, is a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order, and which is often embedded in a larger symbolic system, such as religion or philosophy.

The great example they provided described birthdays. The celebration of birthdays is a tradition. Blowing out candles is a ritual, as we tend to associate that with the larger concept of wishing.

It can be a fine line, but what I was feeling as I participated in and read about the rituals I described was a sense of connection. That doesn't usually happen in a tradition. Check out the article with lots of info about how rituals bond us together, reduce our anxieties, and even help us survive!

As strange as it sounds to say this, I'm not sure my world is filled with enough rituals. In addition to next year's Seder with friends, I'm going to make an effort to incorporate special moments into my life. I hope you will too!

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