How Cultural Rituals Make Us Feel More Connected / by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Caitlin Regan

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves alone.
— Robert Bellah

There is so much joy to be found in simple connections with a lot of different people in public spaces and groupsA major focus of belonging has been in deep, personal ways like best friends and significant others. But, we don’t always have time for more of those types of relationships.

Having more interactions where we don’t have to share all of the intimate details of our lives makes life easier. 

…we need close, intimate ties as well as steady ties that are broader and more casual, that don’t depend on deep conversation or intense sharing.
— Emily White

Participating in cultural traditions is a way to be a part of the larger community without too much effort. Our lives can feel so heavy. But, these types of environments let us forget stress we’re dealing with as individuals and enjoy the present. They help us to get out of our heads.

Festivals are a wonderful excuse to live in the moment, get out of the house, and be around people. One of my favorite times of year for this type of belonging in Louisiana is Mardi Gras. We celebrate with parades, have fancy and casual parties, eat, drink, and dance.

I look forward to the Krewe of Highland parade every year. This neighborhood parade feels like community. Everyone cooks out. Strangers talk to each other. All of the local Krewes participate along with families and friends who create small, homemade floats. The throws are usually pretty fun, even though I’ve never caught one of the coveted hot dogs.

This year I went to the official after party at Marilynn’s Place for the first time and had a blast. It was cold and rainy but everyone enjoyed themselves. We danced under tents or in ponchos in the rain, drank good Louisiana beer, and ate well.  All night I ran into old friends I hadn’t seen in years. It felt like a family reunion.

These kinds of moments of connection in a vast, broad sense have been some of my happiest. You feel grounded and alive. Everything seems a little lighter. Easy.

When we make time to participate in these types of rituals, our lives feel more lived in. Our experiences are made of ordinary days and moments. Traditions, rituals, and rites of passage give us a way to celebrate together. They give us excuses to leave our houses and our comfort zones, to show up, be a face in the crowd, have fun, and be exactly where we are.

The first step -especially for young people with energy and drive and talent but not money- the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
— Chuck Palahniuk

This type of belonging doesn’t have to happen only during festivals or city wide events. We can create our own culture.

One of my new, favorite examples is this guy who likes to start dance parties on trains.

We don’t have any trains here locally to start dance parties in. But, there are plenty of ways to create experiences for others to enjoy. By hosting events, making art, planning parties, or finding new ways to update old traditions, we find connection and enhance each others lives.

What are some of your favorite local traditions or cultural rituals? Have you ever created your own?