Having grown up in a military home where my family’s lives and surroundings were constantly changing, my family treasured small traditions and rituals. These rituals often did revolve as we moved or as my siblings and I grew older, changing from listening to recordings of my father’s voice reading Dr. Seuss when he was deployed to watching certain movies or television shows as a family. A few have remained constant over the years and we practice still today.
Family rituals are important in all homes because they allow the continuation of tradition among generations. They allow families to create their own social group and rituals while maintaining a connection with society, as they often revolve around some aspect of society, such as prayer or holidays.
Durkheim defines rituals as highly routinized acts recognized by society. He claims that rituals unite and integrate us. He describes rituals as falling into two categories; sacred and profane. Profane rituals are those simple, everyday acts that do not necessarily have much meaning. Sacred rituals, on the other hand, are acts that hold some significance to society or a specific social group.
Christmas is a holiday where most families that celebrate it have some kind of tradition or ritual. My family has had a specific routine that we have practiced together for as long as I can remember. Every year, after we attend the Christmas Eve church service, my family gathers together around my father’s chair. We then all sit and listen to him read us “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, even though we have all heard it so many times that we basically have it memorized. This simple reading and listening to this traditional story is a sacred ritual in our family.
Durkheim says that sacred rituals do not necessarily have to be religious, but merely significant and meaningful to the social group that practices it. To my family, the simple reading of this story is a sacred ritual that will continue through Christmases to come.