Although not everyone is familiar with the term “rites of passage” we all have experienced them at some point.
A rite of passage is defined as a ritual or experience that marks a major milestone or change in a person’s life, and they can be particularly important for children.
Baptisms, graduations and proms are examples of modern rites of passage. These ceremonies have one trait in common: They provide a social frame to ease an individual into a new stage without creating uneasiness or disruption. In a nutshell, they provide a way to make official an important change.
The term “rites of passage” was coined in 1909 by the French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep, who observed that these ceremonies are a way to help individuals go through the difficulties of a social transition. Nowadays the term is in common use, since it represents a reality deeply ingrained in the human mind.
They Provide a Sense of Renewal and Belonging
Rites of passage foster a sense of renewal, since they mark the beginning of a new phase in our lives. They remind us that we are constantly evolving and that life is a transformative journey. On the other hand, they also provide a sense of belonging, since a rite of passage is always performed by and for a community.
They’re a Connection With our Past
Ceremonies that function as rites of passage connect us with our own past selves, but also with the past of our forebears. These ceremonies tend to be highly ritualized and are passed from one generation to the next, in a flow that evokes the continuity of life, and reminds us of our place in the great scheme of things.
They Place us in a Sacred Space
When we take part in a rite of passage we find ourselves in a sacred space. There are rules and rituals regarding dress, place and time that must be respected. This represents an exception in our lives, since sacred spaces are scarce in our secular world. As humans, we need this sense of sacrality to feel more attuned to our individual journey.
They Help us Make Sense of Change
One of the main purposes of a rite of passage is to help us make sense of change as individuals but also as a community. A rite of passage can help your children gain a deeper awareness of the transitions going on in their lives, while providing a sense of continuity with their personal story and of connection with their community.