On Sunday I got to witness my little sisters' First Communion. Not having been brought up in a religious, let alone Catholic, tradition there was quite a lot to learn and a lot to go in the flow of even as a spectator. The girls themselves had gone through classes prior to their Confirmation (the day prior) and their First Communion to make sure they knew what to do. I could have done with a class though as each part of the Mass had some call-and-response element to it. If you did want to sing or talk along with the prayer, there were things you were meant to say at their conclusion. Not that my ignorance annoyed me - it was just interesting to be a part of. It was cute to see the girls and the other children have roles to play and rituals to perform. I couldn't help but be happy that they were brought up in such a tradition.
Ceremony is something that I have learned through experience is vital to being human. Perhaps that sounds like I'm going too far but it shows how far I've changed as I've aged. That is probably the case with a lot of people. As a principal of a school, there are many ceremonies to be done: Orientation for students and new staff; staff farewells; student graduations; recognition of performance or contribution. And not surprisingly their absence on occasion does get noticed. The "Why didn't we...?" question is commonly posed to me, when the "we" refers to "me".
One of the work topics that permeate my after-work hours is the lack of a sense of ceremony that our Chinese students have. Out of all the students who deliberately avoid a graduation by calling in sick or booking their flight the day before, most are Chinese. Ceremony isn't big in China and many ceremonies really are "for show". It's easy to be cynical.