What happens at the Ceremony of One in The Giver?
The Ceremony for the Ones is the occasion when a newchild is given a name and handed over to its parents. It is the first of all the Ceremonies and happens every December when each newchild born in the previous year turns one. Obviously, some of them will not be one year old yet because not all newchildren are born in December. This results in babies at various stages of development being brought by the Nurturers. Jonas remembers the occasion as always being noisy and fun because some of the Ones would be tottering around on unsteady legs, others would be crawling and some would be bawling in their nurturers' arms, such as those who were only a few days old and were wrapped in blankets.
If none of the newborns had been released, there would always be fifty of them at the ceremony. Newborns are released if they are part of a twin and the weaker one is released, or if it is found that the newborn is inadequate to become a full member of the community, either because of a congenital illness or some other defect. These newborns are sent Elsewhere.
All fifty of the newborns are consecutively handed over to their families and given their names. Their parents would be couples who have applied for a child and have been approved by the Elders. A family unit may have only two children, so a couple can only apply twice unless one of their children died because of an accident. They can then apply for a child and, in such an instance, their newchild, who will be the same gender as the deceased, will be seen as a replacement and will be allocated the deceased's name, such as with Caleb.
The Naming is obviously an integral part of the Ceremony for Ones. Each newborn should be given a name. The names are decided on by a committee who enter the names in a list and allocate each newchild, who at this stage would still be only a number, a name. The list is prepared in advance and is kept at the Nurturing Center. Names are used only once to ensure that no one in the community has the same name. The names of those who were released or have disappeared are never repeated.
An exception would be where a family has lost a child and has sought a replacement, such as with Caleb. The family's previous child unfortunately drowned and so they were granted a replacement. The entire community had, in a Ceremony of Loss, murmured the deceased's name throughout the day, less and less frequently and softer and softer until his name was heard no more. He seemed to have never been a part of the community. Now, with Caleb, the name has been revived through a brief Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony in which Caleb's name was repeated, softly at first and then with increasing volume, as if the previous Caleb has returned.
On the momentous day, Jonas catches sight of his father who waves and has the baby Gabriel wave, too. It is with relief that Jonas sees Gabriel, for it means he has not been released. The first Ceremony commences and the new children born of the Birth Mothers are handed out to their new families by the Nurturers. Some of the young children come on the stage to proudly receive a new brother or sister; these babies have already been given a name.
One family is especially exuberant as they receive their new child name Caleb as a "replacement child." The original Caleb was a Four when he wandered from the group and fell into a river and drowned. Then, the community performs the "Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony," reaching a crescendo as though reviving the old Caleb, whose name has been murmured to a whisper after his death. Another baby named Roberto is a replacement, but because the first was released and not lost, there is no Murmur ceremony.
Clearly, the ceremonies are sterile and impersonal, with no trace of what is considered normal to the reader, for they are devoid of true human feeling and interaction as even birth is institutionalized and involves the community, and expression is only communally chanted.