Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rituals - What are Yours? By Morgan Mandel

Today, I saw a feature story on Yahoo about a 60 year old ritual that appears to have been broken, but no one knows why. Some man would come every year to visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave to leave roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac. For some reason, he didn't make it this year. All kinds of speculation is happening about why. Here's the link to the story:

Reading the account made me think about the importance of rituals in our writing and how they're indicators of a character's personality or station in life.

There are tons of rituals. They can involve religion, hygiene, family, work, sleep habits, holidays, you name it.

Here are some of my own rituals, involving food:

Popcorn at movies
Hamburgers with ketchup and mustard on a hamburger bun or on rye bread
Mustard, never ketchup, on hotdogs
Pepsi, with ice at my evening meal - Never Coca Cola
Eating dinner from a TV tray while watching television
Going to a Chinese restaurant for Chinese New Year
Going to a Mexican restaurant for Cinco De Mayo
Turkey at Thanksgiving

In my romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, my main character and her love interest share a Friday night ritual of eating pizza while working late.

What about you? Have you included a ritual in one of your books? Or maybe you'd like to share a personal ritual. It doesn't have to be about food. It can be anything.

Morgan Mandel


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'll give you a personal ritual that will give you a chuckle!
When my husband and I first started dating 21 years ago, we began a tradition that has only been broken about a dozen times. We worked together, and I would go visit him after work. Mondays we were always dragging a bit, so big dinner preparations were out of the question. Plus, we had to do something quick so we'd be done in time for Monday night football. Thus began "Spaghetti Monday." Easy and fast to prepare and even faster to devour! Plus we never have to stop and think of what to make on a Monday.

Morgan Mandel said...

I thought Tuesdays were Prince Spaghetti Day!

Morgan Mandel

BrennaLyons said...

Barring a deadline, dinner and after dinner on week nights are family time. We watch a movie or play a game together. Sometimes, one of the kids will sit out on the game and read a book in the same room with the rest of us. Weekends are more flexible.


Debra St. John said...

Every year my hubby and I take a vacation with our parents. (I can almost hear some of you groaning out there, but seriously, we have a blast!) One year for Christmas I bought the Dads and my hubby Hawaiian shirts and the Moms and myself coordinating Ts. Every vacation we wear our "vacation clothes" for one dinner. Fun times!

LJ said...

Coke, no ice. Friends have said that should be my epitaph. And if a place doesn't have Coke, it's root beer, but never Pepsi.

Jane Bierce said...

When I took my first published book, BUILDING PASSION to the post office to mail it (I love e- publishing!), it was a chore to mail it. It had to be weighed, I had to be sure the cover letter, synopsis, return postage, etc., were all in order. I had to buy the mailer there because I couldn't find one at a store. The man behind the counter, who was called Snapper, complained about having a hard time getting the MS into the mailer, and a line was forming behind me. He said loudly, "This is so hard to get into the mailer. I sure hope it sells!"

He was one of the first people I told when I "got the call!" After that, until we left the area, Snapper always complained about getting my MS into the mailer. And brought me good luck four more times.

carl brookins said...

Rituals? Yeah, sleep eat bathe, write, edit jump on the internet and drink. Every day. All of these, except writing and editing do or have appeared in my novels and shorts. Say, have you heard about "Hard Cheese?"

Rachel Newstead said...

In the last year or two, a weekly ritual has started to develop: breakfast downtown at a little local diner called The Queen Bee, followed with a visit to the local farmer's market/craft fair. I've been fortunate this year in that the weather has been fairly mild--these weekend trips have been the perfect antidote to cabin fever.

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

My reading ritual is to have a cup of Aztec hot chocolate.

Cheryl said...

Hey Morgan, I thought Wednesdays were Prince spaghetti days. LOL!

When my boyfriend, now husband, and I worked together--many, many moons ago--we would go out every Friday night with co-workers to the Bridge Cafe. The Bridge was a local bar and pizza joint. Always had cheese sticks and fries or onion rings. We got to know many of the staff and they stopped bringing us menus and just placed our order when they saw the group come in. Good times!

Now my ritual is get the kids off to school, work until 3 PM, get supper made and play Mommy until bedtime, and then work again until my eyes will no longer stay open, travel downstairs to read in the bathtub for about an hour, sleep and do it all over again.

Great article. Rituals can make characters real for readers.


Dana Fredsti said...

Date night Friday... and walking on the beach every weekend morning (except when it's pouring rain) after getting coffee at George's Zoo...

Chris Redding said...

Before we had kids dh and I would get off work, go shop and then cook dinner together while splitting a bottle of wine.
Now several times a year he takes me a on a wife maintenance trip.

Sharon said...

One of the most important rituals at our house is the making of salsa/hot sauce for our Mexican food. I always get all the stuff together and my husband always makes it. Once in awhile I forget to get out the jalapeno peppers, but he always asks for them. :)

His salsa is getting famous in our neck of the woods, but it turns out slightly different every single time.


BrennaLyons said...

For a cooking ritual... Every Thanksgiving, the cooking begins (not counting the baking the days before it) at 5 am. One of my kids (chosen in advance) gets to be my helper for the initial prep work.


Shalanna said...

My entire novel, LITTLE RITUALS, explores the power of ritual, ceremony, and convention in our lives. Many of Daphne's compulsive little rituals (the ones that aren't related to "the spell," I mean) are rituals that my friends/cousins and I actually do have. Rituals have power. Whether you believe that means it has actual power over the physical universe by means of action in the supernatural, or that simply means your own mind gloms on to the effects of the ritual (with no occult or supernatural effects), you have to know that ritual carries meaning and has power.

Everything from a birthday party to the mindless greeting exchange of "How are you?/Fine, thanks" qualifies.

As my heroine Daphne says, "There's nothing wrong with taking comfort from ritual. It's part of knowing what's expected, arranging life to make sense.
[R]itual in life leads to a feeling of security, a sense that we know what's happening and why. Ritual can even substitute good habits for bad ones, which can save you when trouble comes. Maybe the rituals we favor show who we are. All I know is, wherever I look, I see rituals structuring our days, mapping our lives, and leaving behind trails to mark our paths through the calendar."

(LITTLE RITUALS by Denise Weeks, available at Amazon for the Kindle for $1.99 or in other formats from chapter as free download) There--your plug for the day. Sorry about that, chief, but I couldn't resist.

Deb Larson said...

Great blog! My family is ritual crazy, traditions abound. But "doing sweet corn" is a favorite of mine. We usually freeze 60-70 bags of the stuff. We have a campfire outside, work at the table under the umbrella as we harvest our homegrown sweet corn. We eat fresh corn, roast hot dogs and make a general mess of the husks.
DL Larson

Cara Lopez Lee said...

Great post, and love the interesting comments. "Little Rituals" sounds like it contains a compelling character study!

I tend to be a bit on the obsessive-compulsive side, filling my days with so many little rituals that it's difficult to think of which ones stand out. Here are a few:

- When I cut bananas onto my cereal, I arrange the slices in two circles that fill the bowl like a spiral.
- When I eat a slice of toast I eat all the crust first and then eat the middle
- When I get in a plane, I silently pray for the pilot to fly safely, and then clarify that I want everyone on board to arrive at our destination alive and well.
- I arrange my clothes in the closet by color.
- Even if I'm running late, rarely can I bring myself to leave anything lying on my bathroom counter. If I'm in a hurry, I at least sweep it all into a drawer.

Not too horribly eccentric, I hope. Just oddly fussy.

Heidiwriter said...

Friday nights are our "date night," usually for a burger and beer at a local pub.
I also like mustard only on hotdogs.
My morning ritual is drinking coffee while reading manuscripts.