Maintain the important rituals of your life

Last Saturday, I participated in a ritual. A ritual that has been an important part of my life for the past 30 years—attending a fall festival at the small college in our town.
This community event began with a quartet singing Broadway tunes in a large tent set up for the occasion. Fortunately for me, one of my most beloved songs was in their repertoire.
As they sang “Don’t cry for me Argentina,” I closed my eyes and was transported to the first time I heard that beautiful song on Broadway. And I remembered how many times I had heard it on tape since.
Then I went to a booth of commemorative mugs and cookie jars, stamped with a picture of the limestone administration building inscribed with “Bethel College Fall Festival 2001.”
My potter son, who attended Bethel College, has made this a yearly ritual, with the proceeds going to the college.
Memories came back from the time we lived on campus. We could see the impressive administration building at the end of our street, and the little boy dubbed it “the castle.”
His father, now professor emeritus, taught there for many years.
Next, we meandered toward the booth where long lines waited for coffee and “Portselkje.” This is another ritual I have experienced since moving to the Plains.
Introduced by the early settlers, New Year’s cookies, as they are commonly called, are delicious deep-fried fritters with currants in the dough.
But on the way, we stopped to talk to old friends. Then we were approached by a former student and, to my amazement, his mother—my childhood friend from upstate New York—was with him.
We forgot all about the coffee and New Year’s cookies. She had only an hour, but we made the most of it. We remembered Miss Peck, our grade school teacher, and the other three classmates in our grade—Barbara, Helen, and Valeria.
We remembered the oyster suppers and spaghetti feeds with our neighbors and playing “paper people” after the meal—with people we cut from the Montgomery Ward catalogue.
We reminisced about our mothers. Her mother, whom I called Aunt Clara, died when Pauline was only 16 and my mother lived until the age of 82. We remembered our 50th high school reunion and talked about our classmates who have died since.
I will always remember Fall Festival 2001 as the time that Pauline participated in my yearly ritual.
Rituals are commemorative repeated activities that stand between the past and the future. Rituals are always a community event, and define who we are. They provide a way of reliving our past experiences and give promise to the future.
Twentieth-century historian Hannah Arendt said without rituals, we lose “the thread which safely guided us through the vast realms of the past.” And without the past, we cannot fully experience the present or the future.
Thomas Moore, in his best-selling book, “Care of the Soul,” says rituals speak to the soul.
“Ritual maintains the world’s holiness,” he writes. “Knowing that everything we do, no matter how simple, has a halo of imagination around it and can serve the soul enriches life and makes the things around us more precious.”
So what are the rituals that enrich your life? Remember to savour these precious experiences and recognize the important role they play in guiding you from the past to the present—and on into the future.

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