On Rituals

A short essay on the importance of creating family rituals and what rituals mean to children.

Life Letters

Every year since you were a little tyke, we've made baked goods and chocolates together for friends and neighbors during the Holidays. Your expectations of Christmas always include our goody making ritual as well as Dad's chocolate mint cake.

Tucking you into bed used to involve a rather lengthy and specific ritual; there was a story, a witch chasing ceremony, a little back rub, and always a glass of apple juice placed beside your bed in the event that you got thirsty. Even now, bedtime almost always concludes with an "I love you," from me, and an "I love you more," from you.

Rituals are as old as the earliest civilization. They can mark occasions by utilizing a special event to represent a far grander scheme. They help to create meaning and they foster lasting memories. They can solidify, celebrate, commemorate, validate, and comfort.

There are numerous benefits to rituals. Perhaps the greatest reason that I want to engage in them with you is that they offer us the opportunity to make a connection that may very well span both space and time. Whether I'm physically present or not, I can hope to be a part of many of your special occasions, if I can manage to create special times now that you find worthy of remembering later.

We don't engage in them as often as we used to - you've gotten older and more discriminating, and I've gotten busier and more distracted. Still in this uncertain and unpredictable world, children need rituals to help them feel safe, contained, and cared for. They don't have to be complicated, and yet those few moments we invest may provide our children with gifts to carry with them for a lifetime.

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You're growing so fast and changing so quickly. New clothes, perfume, jewelry, and posters have replaced the toys that used to greet you on Christmas morning. But you still demand the chocolate mint cake, and you continue to be excited about delivering our goodies. So while I'm required to give up a little more each year, I can still count on certain special activities that have become an integral part of our lives together. And more importantly, you can count on them too.

Love, Mom

next:Life Letters: On Fear

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 29). On Rituals, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 23 from

Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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