What Are Your Social Rituals?

We humans are social creatures. As such, we find ourselves in social situations often. Are there any rituals you follow, either in preparation or in those situations?

Think about all the social situations you participate in over the course of a few weeks or months. That might include everything from a birthday party, to a sporting event to a nightclub raver. And many, many more possibilities as well, of course.

Now think about each one of those events, from planning, to preparation, to event, to afterward. Can you think of what commonalities they have? Of course, it doesn’t need to be included every single time, but you may have some activities that you do regularly, perhaps even ritualistically.

Besides being social creatures, we are also a species that values rituals. Building a routine comes naturally to us. This has a number of different advantages, including helping us not to forget important steps, as well as in maximizing our enjoyment.

Let’s say, for example, you attend a live music concert, and while you enjoy it, the music was so loud that your ears were ringing afterward. Maybe next time you bring earplugs, and you enjoy that show even more. Then you choose to make it a ritual — each time you go to a concert, you bring along ear plugs. And perhaps even additional pairs for friends that go with you.

These rituals can take any number of forms. Maybe you always wear the same pair of lucky socks. Or make a checklist of things to bring. Perhaps you take a moment in the middle of the event to appreciate what you like about it. Or write about it in a journal afterward so you remember the highlights.

Each person may have slightly — or even wholly — different things they like to do in social situations. Can you think of ones that you do, or that you have seen in a partner, a parent, or a close friend? What are your social rituals?

Related questions: What is the most fun thing you’ve done this week? How important is ceremony? Introvert or extrovert? What is your favorite shared experience?

How Do You Recognize Important Dates?

For each person, the annual calendar is filled with important dates. What do you do to celebrate them?

Everyone has several days that have special meaning to them. These meaningful dates might include holidays, like Christmas or Halloween. Or perhaps more individual examples, like birthdays or wedding anniversaries.

Chances are, you could recognize more special days in the calendar year than you already do.

Some couples, for instance, like to celebrate the day of their first date, in addition to a wedding anniversary and a holiday like Valentine’s Day. Remembering the day you started your job can be valuable, particularly if you use the opportunity to ask for a raise. People with pets may choose to recognize “gotcha day”, or the day that they adopted their dog or cat (or snake or bird or hamster or whatever).

Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What makes a tradition?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What are you optimistic about?’

Whatever dates you deem significant, what, exactly, do you do to mark the occasion? Perhaps you give a toast to celebrate, or maybe exchange gifts. Dinner out at a fancy restaurant is one way, a card or a personalized note is another.

Today (March 26th, 2023) is a special day for Intellectual Roundtable. It marks the six year anniversary of our first-ever post. That question, Why do we like what we like?, was a clear example of the types of questions that would follow. Just a couple of weeks ago, we posted our 800th question, which is also a milestone worth denoting.

Whether you make a spectacle of your birthday, or you enjoy a more manufactured holiday like Star Wars Day (May the 4th) or Pi Day (3.14, or March 14), it is worth taking the opportunity to make as many days special as you can. In the process, think about what you would like to do to celebrate each special date that comes around.

Related questions: What makes a tradition? Birthday: celebrate or not? What is your favorite holiday? What is your favorite holiday memory?

How Important Is Ceremony?

In some ways, we exalt the ceremonies in our lives. Between following a prescribed set of actions and repeating certain words, a ritual can make us feel grounded in reality or soaring among the stars. A ceremony, whether it is religious or secular in nature, cements our place in a community.

However, our word choices sometimes suggest that they are not so important. For example, if a role is “largely ceremonial” it means it has few if any actual duties or responsibilities.

It seems that we often treat ritual as a sacred event, but one that is divorced from everyday relevance. And yet, everyone is surrounded by ceremonial activities, often in many different walks of life.

So which is it? Do we live our lives according to the rituals set forth from those who have come before? Or do the ceremonies we attend have at most some symbolic place in our lives, but no real significance?

How important is ceremony?

Related questions: What makes a tradition? What does it mean to be thankful? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?