A. Szewczul-Week Three-Description of a Ritual

Every year for each person in my immediate family we celebrate their birthday.  It has become tradition to have ice cream cake, balloons, presents, and dinner for the special day.  While this is an informal ritual it is a very special part of being in my family.  I will be describing my last birthday for this assignment.  My birthday is December 27th and I was turning 21 years old.  The day starts out as any other day but around 3pm we all got ready to go out to dinner by around 5pm.  My family doesn’t go out to dinner very often, so we dressed up in nicer clothing (something you would wear to church) for the occasion and headed to a restaurant called Carlyle’s.  My Grandparents were there to meet us for dinner and we exchanged happy greetings as we sat down.  We ate dinner as I tried out my first legal drink (something the bartender thought I would enjoy).  When dinner finally ended we left and all of us went back home to my parents’ house.  Dinner was filling and so having cake as soon as we got back was not ideal.  So instead we sat by our Christmas tree that was still up and showed our gifts to our Grandparents.  The offering of a beverage was brought up.  My Grandma had water and my Grandpa had coke and we sat and talked about everything that had happened since we last saw them.  A little while later we all agreed that cake sounded like a good option and we all headed into the kitchen. The atmosphere was light and happy as I sat in the designated birthday seat. Our kitchen is laid out where the table sits in front of the refrigerator and on the opposite side of it is a sliding glass door to the outside.  In front of the sliding glass door is the designated birthday seat with balloons tied to the chair.  One of the balloons said 21 while the other five were different colors.  A birthday themed table cloth laid on the table and on top of it were seven place settings. Presents lined a half wall that divides our kitchen from our living room and a cake with 21 candles sat in the middle of the kitchen table.  I opened up the cards from my Grandparents first and then the presents that they gave me.  I expressed my gratitude for the gifts and tell them how beautiful they are.  I then opened up the creative cards given to me by my siblings.  It is tradition to always make handmade cards.  I then opened up the last of the presents from my parents and exclaimed happily when I receive a ticket to Florida for spring break.  Happy Birthday is then sang and cake is served and it is the best thing in the world.  It is a chocolate chip ice cream white cake with lots of frosting (my favorite kind).  My siblings and I rejoiced at the cake while my mom grumbled, about how she cannot eat it and my grandma wished to watch what she ate and takes a tiny slice.  When everyone was done eating cake, we lounged around and talked for a while longer resting our full stomachs before my Grandparents went back home. It is around 9pm meaning the sun had set and it got pretty dark out.  We wished my Grandparents a safe trip home.

I would say that there is somewhat of a transformation that occurs for the birthday girl or boy.  You’re acknowledging getting a year older and hoping for many more.  Especially at the age of 21 you’re looked at as an “official” adult.  While you’re technically a legal adult at the age of 18 you are not legal to drink intoxicating beverages.  Also, while a typical 21st birthday is spent with friends getting absolutely wasted. This was a gathering with family, acknowledging the special day in a more formal manner.  Being acknowledged on your birthday is also a huge thing.  It means that family and sometimes friends care that you were brought into this world and what better way to celebrate it then with a special cake that is only served for them once a year.  I think in this case my 21st birthday was a ‘Rites of deference’ ritual because my age represents that I am legal to drink and society conforms to these norms it also makes me feel that I am a lot older.  For example when they asked for my id at dinner and I was able to show them that I was officially 21.  My birthday also shows that I am at the age where I should be treated like an adult and that I am almost done with college to pursue a career. The function of eating dinner with family creates an opener to acknowledge the birthday event and allows for a first legal drink in front of family members.  The function of cake and blowing out the candles represents the passing of the birthday.  While presents are nice to get they also function as something that should be used throughout the year.  The surrounding of family members represents support and love on the day that someone was born.

2 thoughts on “A. Szewczul-Week Three-Description of a Ritual

  1. That sounds like a great birthday and much more special than getting completely drunk. I like how you described the atmosphere and how people reacted to the events as well as the events of the ritual itself. That helped me feel what it must have been like to be a part of that gathering. I also think it was important that you added the parts of the ritual, like thanking your grandparents for the gifts, that are not normally thought of as being required, but are still very much part of the ritual. I wonder if a birthday might be more of a rite of passage than a rite of difference because the ritual does not set you above the other members of your family so much as it celebrates your becoming a full adult and being treated that way. I can see why it could also be a right of difference because on that day you are treated in special ways like sitting in a specific birthday chair and receiving gifts.

  2. This story was extremely respectable. From just reading this story, I have sought an interest in what kind of family life you have. It sounds like your connection with your family is something that many people dream of. So many of our families are filled with divorce and separation but yours is not. It sounds beautiful. It is actually extremely refreshing seeing that you did not spend your twenty-first birthday out on Abbott hitting all the local bars that East Lansing has to offer. I am glad that someone out there has the ability to see the important things in life, like family, and grandparents, and homemade cards, and genuine laughs all with tradition wrapped around every moment. I think that you hit the assignment right on the head and this ritual is extremely meaningful to you. I understand the assignment a little clearer and see it from a fresh perspective when I read your blog. Also, I can see where it would be the rites of deference because society sees that you are of age and that changes certain things in your life. Thank you for letting me read your blog and comment on it. Good job.

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