SOCIAL critics often decry the absence of ritual in our culture, noting that our hunger for ritual leads us to devise all manner of pomp and circumstance, some of it as foolish as a conclave of Shriners in funny hats, some of it as ominous as a troop of Ku Klux Klanners in hoods. In their headlong rush down this inviting ideological path, however, critics may miss altogether the multitude of pompless rituals that engage us in our ordinary lives. Not merely birthdays and holidays, but such simple festivities (or ordeals) as the evening dinner and the favorite TV program may qualify in this category.
By far the most powerful ritual to celebrate the institution of the family is the family reunion, a gathering of interconnected family units, spanning several generations, related by blood or marriage. The occasion may be a wedding, a birth, a death, an anniversary. Or the reunion may arise out of no impulse other than a mutually felt obligation that the clan should gather again. Indeed, many families have regular, scheduled gatherings, the gathering together itself providing both the occasion and the regularity.
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