ceremony

When we look at the different nationalities and cultural groups, one thing that seems always to stay the same…difference. These groups always have their own ideas about milestones that should be celebrated. Where many people might celebrate things like the baby’s first tooth, rolling over, smile, word, crawling, steps, and such, the Navaho Indian tribes in the Southwestern United States, who call themselves Diné, have a very different idea of what should be celebrated. This tribe have picked up on the most fun part of life, as the reason for celebration…that first laugh.

We all know how great it is to hear a baby laugh for the first time. It’s great fun, and if you happened to be the one to coax that first laugh out of the baby, it’s even more fun. The Navajo believe that a baby’s first laugh demonstrates their readiness and willingness to fully join their families in life and love. The Navajo people believe that the person who makes the child laugh is also very special. That person is given a great gift…they get to plan the party. It is that tradition, and it stipulates that the person who provoked the baby’s laugh hosts a ceremony and dinner to mark the occasion. The party is called a First Laugh Ceremony (A’wee Chi’deedloh). According to Navajo national Jaclyn Roessel, “This whole ceremony is really meant to show the baby how we’re supposed to be as Diné, as very generous people.”

When I first learned about the tradition, I thought…naïvely so, that it could almost be viewed as a “punishment” for being the one that made the child laugh…depending on the financial status of the person or the size of the family that would be invited. Of course, that is silly. The Navajo people consider it an honor to be that one that brought the laughter. They become very special. I suppose it could almost be like becoming the child’s godparent. In the Navajo tradition, it goes deeper than that. The Navajo believe that newborn babies first live in the world of the Diyin Dine’e, the Holy People. Tradition has it that they stay in this temporary place before they can join their earthly families. As the tradition continues, the Diyin Dine’e are the first people, subjects of the most important myths and stories in Navajo culture. When a baby is first born, the Navajo believe the child lives among the Holy People, until the first time the baby laughs. The act of laughing is a sign the child is transitioning from the spirit world with the Diyin Dine’e and is ready to fully join his or her family in life. This might seem far-fetched, but many people believe that babies and children have the unique ability to see Jesus and the angels. In fact, in Christian belief, many people believe that these children, when they are seen specking to an “imaginary” friend, are actually speaking to Jesus or to their angels. The two beliefs are not really that different. I believe that the “holy people” are, in fact, Jesus and his angels.

Because of the significance that a baby’s first laugh holds in Navajo tradition, family members watch, wait, and listen intently to hear that first utterance of a giggle. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and just about anyone who is close to the family will try their best to get that first laugh, from silly faces to tickles, and everything in between. I guess they have already planned fo any cost and are already planning the whole thing in their heads. Then, when that special time arrives, when that precious first laugh comes, it’s time to celebrate the journey to their earthly family and welcome this new life into the community with a Navajo First Laugh Ceremony!!

On this day, April 23, 1348, the Most Noble Order of the Garter…the first knighthood of England was founded. This knighthood is only inferior to the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The honor is always bestowed on its winners on April 23, which is Saint George’s day. Saint George is England’s patron saint. Appointments are awarded at the Sovereign’s pleasure as a personal gift on recipients from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms. Membership of the Order is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 members, or Companions. The order also includes supernumerary knights and ladies.

That made me wonder just exactly what it took to become a knight. It seems that in Medieval times, becoming a knight was something young men trained for from early childhood. Knighthood training was a long and often arduous process. It began with a basic education and good manners and rules of etiquette were taught at home. At the age of seven, young boys were sent away to the castles and homes of wealthy lords or relatives to embark on their knighthood training. From the age of seven to fourteen these young boys were given the role of a Medieval Page. From fourteen to twenty-one these ‘apprentice knights’ were referred to as Squires. The different types and styles of Knighthood training depended on the age and strength of the apprentice knights. Knighthood training was focussed on weapon practice which included enhancing skills in horsemanship, the two-handed sword, battle axe, mace, dagger and lance. Still, it was not all the training that ultimately won the squire to coveted title of knight. A squire had to prove his bravery and skill at battle. Only then, would he become a knight…at the age of twenty-one. He gained the title of knight at a “dubbing” ceremony. All this was a really big deal.

Knighthood, like all tradition has undergone changes over the centuries, and I’m sure most of us know that people like Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Mick Jagger have all been knighted. After researching the requirements of old, I wondered how these men became knights. So, I looked into it, and I came back disappointed. It seems that these men were knighted for their work in music and charity. While these are noteworthy accomplishments, it seems to me that they could find a different type of award for these feats. How can work in music and charity possibly be as award worthy as bravery and skill in battle. That would be like giving the purple heart to someone who wrote a book about someone being injured in a war. I think David Bowie must have agreed with me, because in 2003, he turned down the knighthood offered to him. He was labeled a rebel, and it was thought that he was unimpressed with nobility, but maybe he just didn’t see how he could have earned it. I would agree.

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