Why I’m Making a Rite of Passage Ceremony Today

Today, we celebrate my daughter by a rite of passage ceremony that we’ve been thinking about for a long time. 

We are getting her ears pierced. 

As I think about rites of passage, I realize that precious few exist in our culture to celebrate girlhood–not adolescence or graduation or marriage–but just being a young girl.  I wanted the ear piercing to have ceremonial, symbolic importance that she might remember for her whole life.

We will have friends and family there to witness the event.  

I wrote a letter to my daughter for her to read about what her ear piercing symbolizes.  I wrote that whenever she sees her earrings, she will remember God’s love for her, her family’s love for her, and her realization of her own worth–far more precious than any jewel.   We are making a rite of passage to initiate her into the next stage of her growth.  These next few years will mean so much in terms of identity formation, and I realize the role that ritual, symbol, and community will play in that secure sense of self.

I turn 35 years old this week.  I wanted my daughter’s ear piercing to coincide with my own rite of passage.  She has five years until high school, and I have 5 years until I turn 40.  What will we make, together, of these next years?  When I look at my daughter’s earrings, it will symbolize my own journey as a woman and a wife and a mother. 

And I need friends and family to witness this.  

Symbols and rituals help build a meaningful life.  We can pass them on, weave together a beautiful history, and mark our lives by them.  When I look at my daughter’s earrings, I will remember what they mean. 

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The Ridiculous Ritual

Last night, the neighborhood children gather in our basement for Monday Night Fitness Group.  It’s cold, dark, and dreary in the evenings now, so our alternative to biking and double-dutch is Dance Party and Jumping Jack Challenge. 

I don’t want to do this.  I want to change into my pajamas and watch television.  Earlier in the day, one child races out of school and asks, “Is tonight the night?”   Children are calling my cell phone, begging.  My own daughters are already in the basement, ready.  We’ve started some fitness revolution, and I can’t stop now.  Soon, I’m texting families to invite everybody to dance in my basement after dinner.

We’re in a circle dancing to whatever comes out of my iPod.  At one point, the “Hamster Dance” song comes on, and 10 of us crawl around like hamsters.  Then we skip in a circle. 

I’m too old for this. 

A hula hoop rests in the middle of our circle, and each child takes a turn standing in the hula hoop and doing whatever dance move he wants.  The rest of us copy him.  As we rotate around each child, dancing and hollering, I start to feel like I’m in a tribe doing a ritual dance.

I think of Native American dances designed to strengthen tribe members spiritually and emotionally before battle.  Perhaps each of us, in our own way, fights something.  Each child needs us here, circled around him, seeing him, celebrating him, strengthening him for the fight. 

This ridiculous dancing suddenly turns to ritual right in front of my eyes. 

This is my tribe.  I need this.  We enact these rituals that, on the surface, represent fitness.  In a deeper sense, we build our tribe when we gather like this.  Deeper still, we prepare each other emotionally and spiritually for tomorrow’s battle.   

We rally and fall, out of breath, only to rise up in a brave dance. 

It doesn’t take much:  a space to move, people, and a song.  It cost me nothing, and I went to bed more satisfied than I’d felt in months.  I have to remember that living with flair means I build my tribe.  We gather up because we need that strength, that ritual, that dance. 

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