Every religion has a number of rites of passage. These, for the most part, seem to be an important part of each society. They bring together the family and friends to celebrate various stages of ones life. They are a mechanism by which we can confer our status from one to another. And there are both secular and religious rites of passage. some of these include:
First haircut (first poop, first shoes, etc. babies get tons)
Graduations (there are even preschool graduations now)
Military rank advancements
I could go forever, Wikipedia has a much larger list. The point is that we seem to crave these points of recognition. And why not? Other than physical mutilation, and accepting that people are religious, I don't think there is much controversy about any of these milestones of life. I was very proud the receive my PhD and celebrating it was a nice way to do so. I enjoy my birthdays too!
There is a very uncelebrated milestone that 95% of us go through (78% of you english folk). Vaccinations.
Why don't we celebrate this? This is an awesome achievement over disease and death. Vaccinations has provided a completely new level of longevity. The diseases that use to plague humankind barely come into our daily conversation. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, flu. While people in industrialized nations still die from these diseases, usually due to a lack of vaccination, we as a society hardly think of these diseases as one of our ills anymore. We should be celebrating this achievement!
I propose a series of celebrations that align with the vaccination schedule your country uses. Perhaps in America we would celebrate the following events:
First Immunion: This is a small family affair that happens at two months old. The traditional Immunion ceremony is some well wish for strong health of the baby. It starts with the ceremonial washing of hands of all participants. It continues in dim light and silence with the mother holding the baby while the first round of injections are provided. While the child is usually crying at this time, a ceremonial bottle with one or two ounces of breast milk or formula is plied to the baby.
Second Immunion: This ceremony may be shared by close family, but also friends may come to this. This ceremony is held at around 4 months old. While it may be held at the doctors office, it may be more prudent to invite the doctor to the second Immunion so it can be done at home or other facilities that provide enough space for everyone. The Healthy, Happy and strong song is sung by all. This time the father holds the baby while the vaccinations are injected. Once again the baby might not be happy, but the ceremonial 2 ounce bottle of breast milk or forumula is given to the child again.
Third Immunion: This ceremony is often skipped, but may be celebrated. Usually it is done in the morning before the first nap. This is to symbolize the refreshing confidence of long term health that is so refreshing.
Grand Immunion: This ceremony happens just after the first birthday, although it may be combined with the first birthday if desired. At the grand immunion we are celebrating the largest barrage of disease fighting antibodies. The Grand Immunion is usually celebrated amongst family and friends. Although it is also encouraged to put a small ad in the paper that can be saved when the child is older as a keepsake of this wonderful celebration. Often, for the GI, presents are given to the child that are associated with strong heath, like books with pictures of people being strong in the face of adversity, sailors eating spinach, and other stories. Further, the needle of the vaccination is broken off and the syringe is saved as a memento. For this event they make purple syringes.
Terminduction: At the age of 5, the child is Terminducted. This is celebration of the end of the childhood vaccinations and lets the child know that he has entered a new and exciting time in his or her life. It is explained to the child how strong and robust he or she is with respect to some pretty nasty diseases. There is some training that goes into this ceremony before the actual event. The child must be able to recite all the diseases he is vaccinated against. He or she also explains why it is so good to vaccinate to increase the immunity of his whole community, a force everyone associated with the child can share in. The doctor administers the final immunizations with a gold plated syringe, the child recites the diseases he is immunized for from memory. A large bell, canon, or gong is sounded and the all the guests cheer: "Chigee Chigge Chee! Hize Hize Hize! [child's name] is now immunized!"
A good time is had by all.
The last and final celebration is usually just for girls, but it may be used for boys also.
Pappiloo: Papiloo is a time of education and reflection. Usually its a bonding time between one or both parents and the child preparing for Pappiloo. The parent tells their 12-14 year old about how disease works, what viruses and bacteria are. They then go through the Pappiloo Book. This is a book that details various diseases like AIDS, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, and others. It has pictures of the symptoms (they are pretty gross), and discusses how these diseases can be avoided. This book is shared with only the teenager and one or both parents. After the book is finished, goals and dreams of the teenager are discussed. Each desire and outcome that the teenager describes is jotted down and put into a Pappiloo box. The box is stored safely somewhere for the son or daughter to open in times of confusion about what to do with themselves scholastically or in their future careers. Most often Papiloo is celebrated by going on a trip to someplace that the teenager has never been before.
Well, it was a thought anyway. :)