Lost Ceremonies

Could rituals help reconnect us with the world?

Ours is a culture that has lost the ritual dimension to life and is suspicious of any ceremonial element to behaviour. By contrast, while visiting a church in Puebla, Mexico, I was privileged to see a fiesta de quinceañera, in which a young girl celebrated with enormous excitement her achievement of womanhood after puberty. Wearing a tiara and a lovely long dress, she was greeted as an adult for the first time by the congregation, and then departed for a celebration with her family and friends. Such rites of passage can easily become commercialised, but the principle is something we desperately need in Britain. Our culture is lacking in communal rituals in which we discover our roles and responsibilities, our value and dignity: literally our place in the world. Yet we cannot accept such rites because they counter the individualism of our conception of what it is to be human. Any group identity is now regarded as a denial of selfhood, and a rite of passage assumes you move

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