The Giver Ceremonies
What gift do the children receive at ages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12?
In The Giver, most of a child’s first twelve years are marked by some gift or milestone. At age one, children are assigned a name and family. At age four, they receive jackets that button in the back to teach them interdependence. At age seven, they receive front-buttoning jackets. Year eight’s get new clothes with pockets while year nine’s receive bicycles. In year ten, the children get new haircuts. In year eleven, they are given more gender specific clothes. Finally, in year twelve, children are given their assignment in the community.
The community in The Giver is highly structured. Each individual citizen has a role to play in keeping the community functioning, with the exception of babies and the elderly. Children must internalize the rules which govern the community so that, when they are of age, they can become contributing members of society. The children are segregated by age group, with each age group being granted particular rights and responsibilities within the wider community.
Ones are babies who are formally adopted into the community by being given names and family units. Prior to the Ceremony of One, babies ("newchildren") are nameless and are cared for by Nurturers rather than parents.
Twos are not specifically mentioned, so the role of a child does not substantially change between adoption and the Ceremony of Two.
Threes are old enough to start school, where the main focus is on "the acquisition of correct language." Threes are also invited to participate in the family ritual of "dream-telling," where they can discuss their dreams and the potential meanings behind them.
Fours continue with language acquisition, learning to be more precise in their speech so that they can communicate clearly with others—a skill which is extremely important to all members of the community. Fours are also given special jackets which button at the back. In order to button their jackets, the Fours must help each other, which teaches them the value of interdependence.
Fives and Sixes, like Fours, wear back-buttoned jackets, and continue to learn precision of language. Early childhood mostly concerns learning how to communicate and how to rely on one's peers: these are the building blocks of community life.
Sevens are old enough to start becoming more independent. Their back-buttoned jackets are exchanged for front-buttoned jackets, symbolizing the Sevens' growing ability to take care of themselves.
Eights are given new jackets with smaller buttons and pockets as an outward sign of their ability to "keep track of small belongings." More importantly, Eights are no longer allowed to have "comfort objects," like stuffed toys, and are expected to volunteer part of their time each day helping the adults in their professional roles, such as farming, engineering, and care-giving. The Ceremony of Eight is the first major milestone on the road to adulthood, as Eights begin to shed the symbols of childhood and integrate with the adults of the community.
Nines continue the volunteer work they began as Eights and are gifted bicycles to enable them to transport themselves around the community. The bicycles are powerful symbols of the Nines' independence and distinguish them from the younger children, who still depend on their families for transportation.
Tens are given short haircuts as another marker of their maturity, shedding the longer locks of the younger children for the sensible, functional styles of the adults.
Elevens are given new clothes—long trousers for the boys and "different undergarments" for the girls, who are starting to hit puberty.
Twelves are children who have formally been inducted into the community as adults. The Ceremony of Twelve marks the official end of "childhood"; Twelves are given Assignments, the professional roles they will occupy for the whole of their adult lives until they are too elderly to continue. The Committee which governs the community gives Twelves their Assignments based on each child's personality and aptitudes: an intellectual child might be assigned to a scientific role, a nurturing child to a caregiving role, and a strong child to a laboring role. Although Twelves must continue their schooling in tandem with their Assignments for the next few years, they are considered adult members of the community after receiving their Assignments.
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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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