The characters in Lois Lowry's novel The Giver lead highly regimented lives. Children are grouped into years and celebrate a ceremony each year with the other members of their age group rather than individual birthday celebrations.
When children are born, they do not remain with their mothers. Rather, they live at the Nurturing Center, where they are cared for by Nurturers, like main character Jonas's father. Each newchild has a “comfort object” like a stuffed toy. At the Ceremony of One, children officially become “Ones” and are given to a family. They also receive a name for the first time. Each family receives one boy and one girl. Jonas has a younger sister, Lily.
After the Ceremony of Three, children begin to attend school with the goal of language acquisition. They also begin to participate in the family ritual of dream-telling.
At the Ceremony of Four, children receive new clothing, jackets that button down the back. Children have to help each other dress and thereby learn interdependence.
Children reach their next milestone at the Ceremony of Seven, when they receive jackets that button in the front so that they can learn to be more independent.
At the Ceremony of Eight, children have to give up their comfort objects. They receive new jackets again, this time with smaller buttons and pockets so they can learn to manage their own possessions. They also begin to volunteer in the community to learn new skills and allow officials to begin to evaluate their talents and abilities.
Children are especially excited about the Ceremony of Nine, for they receive bicycles for the first time and can become more independent in moving around the community.
At the Ceremony of Ten, children receive shorter haircuts. Girls no longer have to wear braids and ribbons, and boys' hair is cut to resemble the style worn by adult males.
New clothing is again the focus on the Ceremony of Eleven. Boys get long trousers and girls a new style of undergarments.
The Ceremony of Twelve ends childhood for the children of The Giver. Based on their skills, characters, and abilities, young people are given their Assignments, the roles that they will perform in the community for the rest of their lives. No one has any choice in the matter; they merely accept what they are given for the “good” of the community. While they continue to go to school for a few more years, young people are now trained in their professions and are no longer considered children.