What is the Ceremony of Twelve, and its importance in The Giver?

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The Ceremony of Twelve is the most important ceremony in The Giver because it is the ceremony in which in which twelve-year-olds officially become adults and receive their Assignments, or their main jobs and responsibilities in the Community.

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In Lois Lowry's The Giver, the children born in the same year celebrate together a ceremony each year marking the entrance into a new stage in their lives. The most important of these is the Ceremony of Twelve, which is the final ceremony of childhood. At this ceremony, the community's twelve-year-olds officially enter into adult life, at least in part. They are no longer considered children but must adapt to adult responsibilities.

Also at the Ceremony of Twelve, the young people receive the adult Assignments that they will fulfill for the rest of their lives. These are selected for them based on the authorities' assessment of their skills and abilities. At Jonas's Ceremony of Twelve, he watches as a girl named Madeline is assigned to be Fish Hatchery Attendant. Another girl receives the role of Birthmother. Jonas's friend Asher becomes Assistant Director of Recreation, which pleases him. Another friend, Fiona, is made Caretaker of the Old.

For each young person, the Chief Elder also gives a little speech recognizing that person's differences. This is rare in the community, for people are generally trained to conform to the group in all ways and to leave their differences out of the picture. But at the Ceremony of Twelve, each new adult is recognized, just this once, as the unique individual that he or she is.

Something quite strange happens at Jonas's Ceremony of Twelve. Jonas is number nineteen, the nineteenth child born that year, but as the Chief Elder recognizes each young person in turn, she skips over Jonas. Jonas is horrified and ashamed, thinking that he has done something wrong, but the Chief Elder returns to him at the end of the ceremony, for she has a very special role for him, a role that will change Jonas's life forever: the Receiver of Memory.

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Each December, the children who turn twelve participate in a ceremony known as the Ceremony of Twelve. During this ceremony, they are presented with their permanent Assignments, or the jobs they will perform in the Community for the rest of their lives. It is the final ceremony, and it is the most important one, as it marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood for all participants.

The Committee of Elders evaluates the children as they grow up, tracking and analyzing their progress, and, based on the children's skills and knowledge, they carefully select each individual occupation and determine which Assignment is most suitable for each participant. They formally present these Assignments to the children during the Ceremony of Twelve, in front of the entire Community. The children have no choice but to accept whatever Assignment is given to them, as the Committee of Elders are the supreme leaders of the Community and they make all of the decisions regarding everything and everyone in order to maintain the stability of the system and the concept of Sameness.

Jonas, for example, who is the protagonist of the story, is given the most important and most respected Assignment in the Community—the Receiver of Memory. The Giver and the Receiver are the only ones in the Community who can feel emotions: they keep all of the memories and experiences from the past, so that the rest of the inhabitants can live comfortably, without having to feel any pain, anger, suffering, or any other strong emotion.

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The Ceremony of Twelve is the most important ceremony in Jonas's community because it is when the adolescent children are given their permanent Assignments, which are their individually selected occupations. It is the last ceremony each year and is considered a rite of passage to becoming an adult.

The Committee of Elders carefully monitors each adolescent leading up to the Ceremony of Twelve as the children volunteer for different occupations. The elders then choose the best Assignment for each child based on their personalities, interests, and abilities. Leading up to the ceremony, Jonas is nervous about what his Assignment will be.

He is initially skipped when the Chief Elder begins presenting each adolescent their future occupation. After each child receives their Assignment, the Chief Elder informs the community that Jonas has been selected to be the community's next Receiver of Memory, which is the most prestigious and important job in the entire community.

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The Ceremony of Twelve takes place each year in December; at this time the Elders select the position that each Twelve will hold in the community. Since this is the final ceremony, it represents a rite of passage into adulthood and is, therefore, the most important ceremony performed for members of the community.

No other ceremonies are performed after the Ceremony of Twelve. Also, this is the occasion on which differences are acknowledged. The Elder tells the soon-to-be Twelves:

"You Elevens have spent all your years till now learning to fit in, ....But, today we honor your differences. They have determined your futures. (Ch.7)

The new Twelves are called one-by-one according to their birth order; then they are given their Assignments, their roles in the community which they will perform for the rest of their lives. The Twelves are assigned roles in the community that the Elders have chosen for them, based upon their observations of each child. After this ceremony age is no longer important, and birthdays are no longer celebrated.

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