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The kids are given a fortnight off school and adults take time from their work, the shops stay open longer on an evening in a bid to win your cash. People run around frantically trying to find a gift for aunty Joan. Conspicuous consumerism runs rampant. Hundreds of cards are sent to the corners of the known world to people we never see or speak to. Houses, streets and whole towns are decorated with brightly coloured baubles, trees are brought into houses, decorated and then gifts are wrapped in gaudy paper and placed beneath them. Special songs are sung. Towards the big day, people spend hours preparing seasonal food, parties are held, drunkeness is rampant as the public holiday approaches...even attendance at the churches increases. This all culminates in a large feast, gifts are exchanged and the feast is consumed.
All of this and more happens every year at Christmas.
Question is, does this make us a ritually obsessed society? It's definitely ritualistic behaviour, I would argue that British society is pretty much secular but there are times of the year when we become extremely ritualistic.

There has been a number of discussions recently where the word 'ritual' has been both attacked and defended but I think if the debate is to move on then we need to define our terms.
To me life in Western Europe is full of ritual activity and pretty deviod of spirituality.
Can this be applied to the past? probably not, I think ethnological studies of none western (capitalist) societies are possibly our best chance at trying to understand Britain 5000 years ago.
But before we attack ritual we should define it.

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Posted by fitzcoraldo
9th January 2006ce

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