The Friendly Funeralista

Rituals are cool again thanks to the Olympics

Posted on: March 1, 2010

Well, the 2010 Winter Olympics have drawn to a close and all I can say is … WOW!  I loved watching the games and in particular marvelled at the ceremonial aspect of the event.  Us funeral folk are suckers for rituals.  Give us flags, anthems, speeches, torches, processions, flowers, uniforms, mascots, and we are in our element!!!!!  After all, what are funerals but rituals?

The funeral profession has been in a bit of a funk these past few years due to the declining interest in, well, funerals.  It seems that for many, requiem rituals are somewhat passe.   Industry statistics show a decline in “traditional” funeral services.  It seems that open casket visitations, funeral processions, burials, “earth to earth and ashes to ashes” are no longer “cool”.  After all, these things take time and effort.  Funerals are emotional and all the crying makes one’s mascara run.   Before these Olympic games, it appeared that all traditional rituals (weddings included) were in jeopardy and no longer had value for many people.  Indeed even most Canadians seemed less than interested and even opposed to the winter games, prompting much concern about protesters and social activists “derailing” the festivities.   

Then along came the Olympic torch relay.  My family and I (and a lot of other Canadians) stood on street corners in communities across the country to see the torchbearers blaze through their neighbourhoods.  Two weeks ago, we watched the hoisting of the Olympic flag, the lighting of the cauldron and the singing of the Olympic hymn.  We listened to the speeches and the oaths taken by the athletes and officials to play fairly.  During these games, we sang (with tears streaming down our faces) our Canadian anthem no less than 14 times as our golden children were awarded their medals.  We witnessed and participated in the Olympic rituals.  We  loved every minute.  It brought our family, our nation and the world together. It gave us pride and joy and certainty.  It was cool!

Riding on the coattails of the Olympics, I would like to declare all rituals “cool” once again. What’s wrong with shedding a tear and joining others in song?  Why is feeling a crime?  Ceremonies bring us together for a common purpose.  They send shivers down our spine and prompt tears and cheers.  They get to the heart of the matter.  They are cathartic and provide a safe environment to emote.  They mark life events.  What words cannot capture a ritual can.  Yes, ceremonies and rituals are cool. 

Thank you, Vancouver for a great time.    These games will go down in history!

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