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Ceremonies for Children and Young People
School holidays are here and many of us are spending more time with the young people in our lives. For Year 12 students, school and childhood are coming to an end as they prepare for final exams next term and a transition to adulthood. TCN Celebrant and today's guest blogger Melanie Lawson from Oberon, NSW talks about the different types of ceremonies we celebrate with children.
The arrival of a baby is always a wonderful time for celebration, and rituals to welcome or name babies exist in all cultures and religions. These range from a secular naming ceremony; Christian baptism; brit milah for boys and simchat bat for girls of the Jewish faith; and Jatakarma (welcome) in the Hindu faith. The common themes of these ceremonies include celebration, welcoming a new family member, naming the child and recognising religious practices.
Children are recognised by ritual and ceremony at key points in their development. Many cultural groups acknowledge that children take on a greater role in their community or their religion as they reach an age of awareness, often around adolescence. The Jewish bar/bat mitzvah is a well-known example of a coming of age ceremony. Initiation ceremonies are important rituals in many cultures, including indigenous Australians. These ceremonies are usually held separately for boys and girls and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. The young person may be given new knowledge or status after an initiation.
A secular modern take on this rite of passage is a ceremony to mark adolescence. A lovely example of this type of ceremony is on The Celebrants Network website:
Graduation ceremonies will not be far from the mind of many school leavers in the next couple of months. Traditionally, these ceremonies were held when young people left school at the end of the final year, however graduation ceremonies have begun appearing for children in Australia in Year 10, Year 6 and even pre-school! Speaking of school – who remembers the ritual of getting a pen licence? Primary school children deemed to have sufficiently neat handwriting can graduate from using a pencil to writing with a pen, with the moment marked by a certificate.
Some less traditional ceremony and ritual ideas that involve young people include joining children into a blended family; welcoming foster children into a family; celebrating a young person ‘coming out’ as gay or lesbian.
Significant birthdays mark the final celebrations for children with 18 and 21 years being the most popular milestones to celebrate. Marking a transition to adulthood, these celebrations can also bring a tear to a parent’s eye as they say goodbye to the baby and child that is now grown up. Sneaking an embarrassing baby photo into the celebration is a parent’s rite of passage at these moments!
When planning ceremonies for children and young people it is important to plan the celebration to suit the age and developmental level of the children involved. Younger children will need shorter ceremonies with less words and more actions. Teenagers may be reticent to the centre of attention. Ceremonies involving large numbers of small guests will need a greater level of planning and parental participation!
The Celebrants Network Inc has helpful and imaginative celebrants all over Australia who can work with you to design a unique and meaningful ceremony for any stage of your child’s life. Find a celebrant here https://www.celebrants.org.au/find/celebrant-directory
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Thanks Melanie for you insight. Yes, I was aware when my three were born, the responsibility we have to give them a name. I love the concept of rite of passage.