When my brothers and I were quite young, we had “une balle bleue” (a blue rubber ball) we used to play with. One day, the ball got stepped on and became as flat as “une crêpe.” That evening, it also accidentally got shoved underneath my bed.
“Le matin” (in the morning), I had to clean out “ma chambre” (my bedroom) and so I pulled out the ball from underneath the bed. Lo and behold, it was round again! In our little French children’s minds, we understood exactly what happened … underneath the bed was “magique!” And so a “rituel” (ritual) was born: every time after that, when the ball would get stepped on, under the bed it went for the night.
After a while, even though we never did question the miracle for too long, we came to accept the magical properties of “underneath the bed,” as normal. One day I decided to cut “les cheveux” (the hair) right off my little Parisian Barbie doll’s head. Deep down I knew that I could do this with total impunity … because if “underneath the bed” could fix a flat ball, it certainly could re-attach a doll’s hair. And knowing as well that my mother would be less than pleased at my first attempt at a career in hairstyling, I decided to use the one tried and true method of erasing mistakes. So that evening, the Barbie doll, its severed mane, and the scissors (why not) all went under the bed.
For quite a while after that event, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my mother had started sweeping my room too early that morning … the magic mustn’t have been quite done. What other reasonable explanation could there be? Any other reason would have been too heartbreaking.
Do you have any magic “rituels” (rituals)?
I strongly believe that either, ancient or modern, young or old, cultures and people actively seek and practice a variety of “rituels.” Most of us like to have the same routine every morning, down to the order in which we do things … we wake up, have a shower, take “le chien” (the dog) for a walk, drive to work, etc.
We find that doing things in a predictable manner, lets us relax, puts our minds at ease, and basically provides us with a sense of security. Check any of your “habits” using the following list and see if they might just be “rituels” in disguise.
“Rituels” all have characteristics in common, such as:
- Participation (someone had to send that ball underneath the bed)
- Repetition (how many times a week do you go to your favorite coffee shop?)
- Predictability (everyone knows that during a birthday party, there will be a cake with candles to blow)
- Specific place (the gym, the coffee shop, church, underneath the bed …)
- Sacrifice (nearly $5 for a cup of coffee … need I say more?)
- Structure (first you get in line, then the barista takes your order and shouts it across the room, then the second barista takes your “sacrifice,” you move along the line, then the third barista makes your order, and you pick it up at the end of the counter)
- Specific language (Tall, Grande, Venti … do you remember your first reaction? “Quoi?” (Huh?)
- Right of passage (That’s why the gym calls it an “initiation fee”)
- Symbols (logos …)
- Specific set of values, beliefs and choices (close-knit family through activities done together, healthy lifestyle through attendance at a gym, or involvement in sports—much more French)
- Can be passed onto future generations
- Often has a story component
From my French culture to yours: Le Rituel? Mais oui, bien sur!
For centuries, “les Français,” and other ancient cultures, have relied on “rituels” to bring people together, create a sense of belonging and of community. Throughout their history and in everyday life, “les Français” have understood that “les rituels” are the Constant that allows them to withstand the Everchanging. One of our favorite “rituel,” or course, is sharing frequent meals with friends and family, to exchange stories, grow closer together and build memories.
Some “rituels” are religious such as baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc. Other “rituels” are more societal, as in family dinners, weekend get-togethers with friends, etc. And many have a story attached to them. One of the sweetest is the right of passage from toddler-hood to childhood, when baby teeth are hidden underneath the pillow for the Tooth Fairy to retrieve and replace with a shiny coin.
See … I knew there was magic there!
Now you try it! Create your own meaningful “rituels,” pass them on, and build a legacy.