Notes and Notices

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Ruminating on Rituals

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

The word rituals implies a long, drawn-out affair filled with symbolism, but I've slowly come to realize that they can be simpler than that. They can be daily habits (like a good morning greeting or a simple text) that have taken on increased significance because of repetition.

It's my birthday today (or tomorrow) depending on where in the world you live. On that day, I expect no birthday cake or big celebration, but I will look forward to personal greetings from friends over text messages and phone calls.

A photo of my husband's birthday cake last year. Photo by: Carren Jao.
Earlier this morning, I even found myself smiling over my parents' customary "gift of prayer" greeting card. (For non-Catholics, it's basically a little card from a church that says they'll be praying for you over the course of a few masses.) My parents have been sending these gifts of prayer ever since I grew too old to be entertained by toys. It used to be something we siblings kid about, but then it's also something uniquely our family's.

Then, there are some rituals that aren't always here to stay, but will always be remembered. I'm talking about birthday misua, a Fujian noodle dish made with super long noodles that symbolize long life. Every year, since I was young, I was served a healthy helping of this filling dish filled with a variety of meats (shrimps, fish balls, chicken bits) and vegetables (Chinese cabbage, carrots and mushrooms) and topped with a single hard-boiled egg. I loathed the hard boiled egg because I felt my mouth dry up too much upon trying to chomp down on it, but I loved everything else about it.

A version of birthday misua via BlauEarth
Unfortunately, there are three reasons I can't get that dish anymore: I'm not a cook; that recipe takes too much preparation for me; and my mom only gets this birthday dish from one place in the world. I suppose I'll have to settle for half-remembered tastes of misua instead of the real thing.

Every milestone in life is filled with these little rituals--acts or objects that help us mark a moment in our life. It makes that day seem a little different from the rest of the 364 days that come before and after it. The city itself is filled with these rituals: annual festivals, beloved award shows, even simple ribbon-cutting ceremonies. It's the same concept writ larger.

What little rituals have you come to cherish?


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