Rituals Personified

Rituals Personified


An extended family reunion is perhaps the most influential ritual and no doubt the most difficult to continue as grandparents age, families move apart and older members pass away, but as the responses reiterate, the significance lasts a lifetime especially if you have access to a group picture that you’re in.

Responses to Drop Donuts blog and other conversations this past week indicated that rituals deserved expansion. First, several responses followed by the influence that temperament wields in group settings and ending with the wide range of friendship rituals never before considered for the ritual category.

I enjoyed this blog because it made me think of my husband’s family reunions in N.C. that I attended: good old southern food; pound cake–an aunt’s best.  Field peas seasoned with fat back, something I had never eaten in PA.  We don’t have the reunions anymore, but are always treated to a few of the cousins feeding us if we visit. Do your drop donuts taste like Fauschnauts? J.

(Google) Served traditionally in the days of Carnival and Fastnacht or on Shrove Tuesday, the day   before Lent starts. Fasnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat, and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent. The term is synonymous with Fasnacht in southern Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria.

My drop donuts not made with yeast, having no oil in the mixture and minimal sugar, are light, tender and on the delicate side, tasting like donuts without holes. When requested, I share the recipe.

Oh my, just seeing the title of this missive threw me back to the late 60's and early to mid-70's when I had the privilege of being at your house for breakfast! I can remember the lovely smell of the drop donuts cooking with the aroma of coffee brewing! Thank you for the memory! Very interesting how "the struggle" pulled your family into a tightly-knit cooperating unit & extended out to continue on adding members. S.

Mom and dad's home was always mecca for holidays and gatherings for decades …often had 50+ people crammed into a small house, spilling out onto a back patio. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins. My siblings came from as far away as Hawaii or Saipan....Florida and New Jersey. We ALL treasured this time...the years that I personally missed when I was away in the Army I relied on letters & phone calls & pictures to buoy me until I could attend the next one...same with various siblings who just couldn't swing getting home...then my dad died. And so did the gatherings...one by one.... very quickly actually. Aunts, Uncles, older cousins died...All good memories that belong to another time...We have our own family gatherings now but not together. We share pictures and stories as we choose. Interesting indeed. J.

Ruth, I remember your drop donuts well, thank you, Harold.

Have family rituals enriched my life? Yes, even though I am more or less estranged from my family of origin--Old Order Mennonite--some deeply instilled rituals or customs remain strong and enrich my life.  I do place much value on social networks and on "knowing one's neighbor." The logical practicality of doing so is obvious to me from my background. People have said to me, "You know a lot of people." I make a point of doing so. I think that was an unconscious priority when I first moved to the city twenty years ago to remember the people you meet…This comes in handy when a community project is being planned. Or when one is in a pinch or crisis... I had to adjust my ritual to fit the culture but it has enriched my life and earned me new friends to be my family.

One of the first Ward extended family gatherings that this Ohio Yankee attended as Jim’s bride was something I had no comparison before or since, involving Jim’s paternal grandfather’s side of the family. At 90, he was the oldest of many siblings who attended the gathering in sandy East Texas, on the grounds of their former church complete with Ward-family grave yard. People stayed all night in the church, in tents, campers or in town at a motel. They played blue grass music, some sang, and they stayed up very late. Dinner was fried chicken, barbeque, pinto beans, cornbread--made just with cornmeal and was extremely moist--fried okra and many other dishes including pecan pie and iced tea (none of the above had I ever eaten except fried chicken and iced tea.  A lot of hugging went on and the line-up I was in, I noticed several big guys had already been through that line once.  They were curious about the yankee.  My family, a little more modest, were not big huggers especially with people we had never met.  One thing was obvious to me, that they loved being together and the sand in their shoes and hot weather did not deter them at all. And it wasn’t long before I was serving Jim several Texan dishes.

It was fortunate that I was extroverted because I could adjust to the crowd. A conversation this week regarding why introverts avoid attending large reunions rituals because of the noise and confusion and they prefer to make the smaller birthday celebrations or stop in at a relative’s house enroute to another destination was part of my reason in expanding reunion rituals.

Extroverts, being aware of and protecting those who by God’s design are Introverted, is a much-appreciated silent gift that Extroverts can bestow upon that minority.  Also, being aware that Introverts do not like to be asked personal questions is a big plus in group communication.  And you know, as well as I, that many people do not like to be touched or hugged not only by strangers but even relatives. We need to respect people for who they are and are not. Asking, “May I give you a hug”, is still preferable.  I heard many introverts comment how much they enjoyed the Pandemic “no hugging” or even shaking hands caution.

Personal and simple rituals/routines are important to everyone, especially children. The routine in getting ready for bed, they know the usual number of books or drinks permitted including the goodnight prayer and tucking in, should a relative or sitter put them to bed.  Seniors are advised to number the steps for retiring and arising to help them remember necessary things to do in maintaining their wellbeing. I recall my mom, living next door to her widowed older sister, writing down individual events of the day and checking them off that Aunt Hazel needed to convince her that she’d had ‘dinner’ because Hazel was often afraid that she had missed a meal. “Hazel is was always hungry” mother explained.  Simple routines that are kept indeed provide security and confidence.

In Robert Fulghum’s delightful paperback Beginning to End, he offers excellent opinions about the importance of rituals/routines and names many.  One section was particularly enlightening and creative, where he surmises that rituals are timed by beats of the heart, not ticks of the clock.  He names holidays as the major rituals saying that rituals are frames around the mirrors of the moment and that nobody lives without rituals.

He holds that rituals anchor us to high places on steep slopes…where we are likely to lose our footing and keeps us from becoming stuck in the world’s mud.  “Ritual behavior enriches the phases of life when we are reminded how fine it is to be human”.  You may have heard of his title “All ever learned I learned in kindergarten. I’ve been entertained and have learned a lot from his series of books. But I have a question I’d like to ask him.

Yesterday, I visited with my neighbors next door who were having a yard sale this weekend. As various friends drove up to check out their bargains, they took time to visit.  The neighbors across the street were also having a yard sale this week end. I’m wondering if Fulghum would classify having yard sales every year at the same time as a ritual? It provides a hobby, a little income and opportunity to visit friends and make new ones. I took time to go over again this morning to take each a plate of drop donuts. I was in the process of preparing drop donuts for local family and had plenty to share. And, again, we had great visiting with neighbors who were walking by. Any event that grants time to visit family or friends enlarges our horizons, revealing the wealth of relationships.  Nurtured relationships/friendships provide satisfying purpose and joy that money cannot buy.

Rituals remind us how fine it is to be human and of the importance of finding out how and why we were created in the first place. Designing rituals that involve others not only helps us to grow emotionally but also spiritually. Just as we feed and care for our bodies, we also are wise to feel our minds with good information and develop rituals that will help us to get acquainted with a caring God who knew what He was doing when he gave us life. Jesus said:” I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John: 10:10 (NIV).