Whether you are a fan of hockey or not, you might be wondering why there is a post about the Stanley Cup here. It is here because rituals are an integral part of all our lives, whether we recognize them or not. Some are religious, some are spiritual, and some are very very NOT either of those. We’re going to talk about the difference between a ritual and a tradition.

The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy given annually to the winner of the NHL playoffs. The original “cup” was purchased in London by Lord Stanley who donated it to the Canadian league in 1892. That cup was awarded annually until 1970 when it was retired to the Hockey Fall of Fame due to its age. Since then, the “Presentation Cup” has been awarded. There is a third cup, a replica that is displayed in the Hall of Fame when the Presentation Cup is out and about.

Unlike most sport trophies which are given once, the Stanley Cup accumulates the names of all the winners. The Cup changes every year, but the honor remains the same. To have your name engraved on the Cup is to be added to a historic list. A host of traditions have arisen over the years –  players kiss the Cup, they get to spend a day with the Cup, and so on. The Cup has been used to serve champagne and to baptize babies!

Within the Stanley Cup traditions are some specific rituals. A tradition, in general, is a belief or behavior that is passed down within a family, community, or culture. It has a symbolic meaning and connects to the past. A ritual is a specific set of actions that are each performed intentionally.

Rituals help organize our lives and create meaningful connections between the past, the present, and the future. Some action that you perform over and over may be just a routine, although a useful routine. A ritual is intentional. It requires attention.

Many ceremonies across our life cycle include meaningful rituals. Some are part of long-term traditions; others are created for a specific place and time. We’ll talk more about rituals soon.

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