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Each ceremony contains a symbolic meaning as children age. The nature of the gift depends on how the child is maturing. The community has determined what milestone each age group should meet. If you look carefully, you will see that each of these ceremonies is designed to foster sameness in the community. The ceremonies are kind of like big, community-wide birthday parties. Everyone born in a certain year turns the same age at the same time.
Here are the ceremonies and milestones. The important ones are in bold.
One: Naming: A name and a family (p. 41). This is the ceremony where babies are assigned to the family units who have applied for them. Before this ceremony, Newchildren are not called by name. Jonas’s father breaks this rule by secretly calling Gabriel by his future name.
Two: The book does not say. It would likely be clothes of some kind to reflect beginning to walk.
Three: Begin dream-telling and acquiring correct language
Four: Jacket fastened down the back, for interdependence. Everything in the community is collective. People depend on one another. This change in clothing is designed to condition children to get used to depending on one another.
Five: Jacket fastened down the back, for interdependence.
Six: Jacket fastened down the back, for interdependence.
Seven: Front-buttoned jacket, the first “sign of independence” (p. 40). Seven seems to be the year when the children begin be more independent. Seven is a transitional year, because at eight children start being prepared to become adults.
Eight: New clothes: Jacket with smaller buttons and a pocket, for those “mature enough now to keep track of … small belongings” (p. 44); begin volunteering. Children begin to become more independent at age eight. They are observed as they volunteer for the assignments they will receive at twelve.
Nine: bicycle “the powerful emblem of moving gradually out into the community, away from the protective family unit” (p. 41). Bicycles are perhaps the strongest of the transitions. With the bicycle, the child becomes mobile and begins to take part in community life on a regular basis. There is more volunteering at this age too.
Ten: haircut “females lost their braids at Ten, and males, too, relinquished their long childish hair and took on the more manly short style which exposed their ears” (p. 46).
Eleven: New clothes: “different undergarments for the females, whose bodies were beginning to change; and longer trousers for the males, with a specially shaped pocket for the small calculator that they would use this year in school” (p. 47). Basically, at eleven children are just waiting to turn twelve.
Twelve: An assignment (job) to begin training for the future. Children are carefully watched for their personalities and intelligence. The committee then assigns each child the position that seems to best fit his or her abilities. This is by far the most crucial ceremony, as children are becoming less children and more adults. This is also the last ceremony. Once the child turns twelve, they stop counting.
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