Some fathers find the idea of organized rituals to be awkward and have fears that they will make the Rite of Passage for their son too “stiff”. Some men would prefer organic, off-the-cuff discussion with less formality, and therefore they are tempted to remove the rituals altogether.
We think this would be a mistake. Organic discussion is created because of the rituals, not in spite of them. You need the structure that rituals provide in order for good conversation to occur.
Today, rituals are seen as old-fashioned, rigid, unnecessary, and even superstitious. Modernity prides itself on its rejection of ritualistic behavior. But in truth, rituals still play an important role in all our lives, whether we want to admit it or not.
Recall the last graduation ceremony that you attended; there was unique attire (you would look silly wearing that gown anywhere else!), an entrance procession, commencement speeches, the walking across the stage, throwing of caps, and most likely a party afterward. All these are examples of rituals that make up a meaningful graduation ceremony. There is even a special song that is only played during graduations called “Pomp and Circumstance”. I’m sure you can think of the tune right now.
Some rituals are meant to be fun, to make the experience memorable. The throwing of caps, for example, does not have a lot of meaning behind it, but it sure is fun. Other rituals provide appropriate opportunities for sharing and reflecting. The ritual of a valedictorian speech gives an opportunity for at least one classmate to reflect on his or her time at school, share stories, and talk about dreams for the future.
The rituals within a graduation ceremony help students transition from one stage in life to another. They provide a clear end to their schooling and the beginning of their working life. If we believe that rituals are an important part of graduating from one grade to the next, then we should have meaningful rituals for the all-important graduation from boyhood to manhood as well. A formal Rite of Passage event that incorporates meaningful rituals gives certainty and confidence to a boy that he is, in fact, a man. He can look back and know the exact moment in his life when this occurred.
One reason that rituals are important is the very fact that they are structured—there is a right way to do a ritual and a wrong way to do it. One graduation ceremony looks similar to the next. This uniformity provides a sense of order and direction. Including rituals in a Rite of Passage emulates the way that we want our sons to live: with structure and a clear understanding between right and wrong.
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