Between the World Series and Halloween, there's so much black and orange in San Francisco right now that looks like someone threw up licorice and candy corn all over the city. We've been inundated with t-shirts that say "I See Orange People" or "Torture," interspersed with princesses, witches, little Lady Gagas and Spongebobs.
There are many different types of rituals; some are cultural, while others are spiritual, or psychological. Lots of baseball fans are wearing their lucky hats, or special shirts, eating beloved baseball snacks. Halloween rituals include risque costumes (does anyone bob for apples anymore?), consuming vast quantities of candy, and ghoulish lawn decorations.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines a ritual as follows:
"any act or practice regularly repeated in a set precise manner for relief of anxiety."
Thankfully, dictionary.com gives a much more comprehensive set of definitions, easing my own anxiety about the unfortunate propensity for pathologizing ritual behaviors. Brushing your teeth every day, morning coffee, and walking your dog all qualify as rituals, as do lighting Shabbat candles, morning meditation, and Thanksgiving turkey.
Rituals often imbue our lives with a sense of rhythm and meaning, and connect us with the seasons, the calendar, with ancestors and grandchildren. Humans are profoundly habitual creatures; this is good news, because it means we have the capacity to learn new rituals as well as shed old ones that are no longer useful.