The birth of a royal princess in Britain after some six decades without one so high in the line of succession to the British throne brings pageantry with it in spite of her modern and independent-minded parents. We might wonder if there’s still any place for pageantry in this world, especially in the United States.
Those with a Puritan streak in them would say no, that ostentation and pageantry were for the Old World and its outdated social customs, where the wealthy wasted millions in local currency while the lower classes quite literally starved. Those stealing a loaf of bread in an attempt to survive were sent to the penal colonies in the New World, including the Americas and Australia.
Such critics have a valid point: any society has the moral obligation to take care of the basic needs of people first, by providing real jobs for real wages, and medical care, unless leaders wish to deal with the ugliness and sorrow of anarchy in the streets. Yet there is a place for pageantry in the New World, even today. We cannot take all the joy out of life by denying people the opportunity and the right to dress up and celebrate, whether for our national holidays, historical events, sports, returning military, or occasionally, for returning space exploration heroes.
All Cultures Have Pageantry
All cultures have unique and colorful displays, dances, and parades, though they share many of the same qualities of excitement, pride, enthusiasm, and fun. Lively and joyful events are often held for the main purpose of boosting morale, of showing everyone else out there what the people are made of, what is important to them, what they want their children to remember. Pageantry is a way of reinforcing traditions, of displaying what is of value—what we want future generations to know about us—and of having fun! On the other side of the spectrum is the goose-stepping of every evil military force that ever marched and continues to march. It is far more symbolic of cruelty and despotism than any black hat ever worn by the bad guys.
No Stranger to Pageantry
The United States is actually no stranger to pageantry, even when some citizens turn up their noses at pomp and circumstance. Many immigrants from most corners of the world brought widely divergent theater, dance, music, sculpture, and painting, not to mention their creative writing ability, of course! And the Americas as a whole have unique celebrations, everything from the self-esteem of Native American dances, to the rodeo events that are held from Canada down through the tip of South America. Rodeos have matured over the years to lessen, if not eliminate, the cruelty to animals involved. (There will always be those who consider non-human life to be a lower life form and therefore undeserving of kindness. Such people eventually pay the price for their coldness and ignorance.)
From tinkling bells and scarf dances to Polynesian war dances, the culture of every inhabited continent was imported and is represented in North America. While no one does pomp and circumstance quite like the British with hopelessly uncomfortable uniforms for many to wear, most cultures prefer not to emulate that quite so closely. Of course, many women’s costumes in any culture were and are long straitjackets, taking desperate amounts of time to shuck off when nature calls (among other unlovely disadvantages).
Pageantry in Churches
Some churches consider all ostentation in ceremony to be undesirable, yet there is a place for moderate amounts of it. If nothing else, it keeps congregants awake! Incense tends to sicken all who must inhale it, so could easily be omitted. But cleanliness, simple color, and beauty always have a place in worship. One does not need the distraction and visual annoyance of a hat with peacock feathers to be wearing Sunday best, for example, but palm fronds on Palm Sunday help children learn the story associated with them, and choir robes at any time indicate reverence, beauty and unity.
Let’s have a little color in our lives!