ceremony

ceremony

[ser-uh-moh-nee]
ceremony, expression of shared feelings and attitudes through more or less formally ordered actions of an essentially symbolic nature performed on appropriate occasions. A ceremony involves stereotyped bodily movements, often in relation to objects possessing symbolic meaning. For example, people bow or genuflect, tip hats, present arms, slaughter cattle, salute flags, and perform a myriad of other actions. Ceremonies express, perpetuate, and transmit elements of the value and sentiment system and aim at preserving such values and sentiments from doubt and opposition; moreover, they intensify the solidarity of the participants. Ceremonies are found in all societies.
Japanese chadō or cha-no-yu

Ritualized preparation and drinking of tea developed in Japan. It involves a host and one or more guests; the tea, utensils, and movements used in preparing, serving, and drinking the tea are all prescribed. When tea was introduced from Song-dynasty China by the Zen monk Eisai (1141–1215), it was drunk by Zen monks to help them stay awake during meditation. The laity enjoyed tea-tasting competitions that developed into a more refined, meditative form among the warrior aristocracy in the 15th century. The most famous exponent of the tea ceremony was Sen Rikyū (1522–91), tea master to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who codified a style known as wabi, which favoured rustic, rough-shaped tea bowls and spare, simple surroundings. Three popular schools of the tea ceremony trace their roots to Rikyū, and other schools exist as well; today mastery of the tea ceremony is one accomplishment of a well-bred young woman.

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A ceremony is an activity, infused with ritual significance, performed on a special occasion.

Celebration of life

A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human career, marking the significance of (for example):

Government ceremonies

Sometimes, a ceremony may only be performed by a person with certain authority. For example, the opening of the United Kingdom Parliament is presided over by the Sovereign (currently Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II). The naming and launching of a warship will be under the supervision of its captain or a higher-ranked naval officer. A wedding will be performed by a priest or a Civil Celebrant, as in Australia. The President of the United States is customarily sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States, and the British sovereign is always crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Celebration of events

Other, society-wide ceremonies may mark annual or seasonal or recurrent events like:

Other ceremonies underscore the importance of irregular special occasions, such as:

In some Asian cultures, ceremonies also play an important role, for example the tea ceremony.

Process

Ceremonies may have a physical display or theatrical component: dance, a procession, the laying on of hands. A declaratory verbal pronouncement may explain or cap the occasion, for instance:

  • I now pronounce you man and wife.
  • I swear to serve and defend the nation ...
  • I declare open the games of ...
  • I/We dedicate this ... ... to ...

Both physical and verbal components of a ceremony may become part of a liturgy.

See also

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