My Favorite Religious Rituals
In no particular order
1. Passover Seder
I particularly like the idea of using food to symbolize historical, cultural and spiritual events. The fact that some of the food is not meant to be enjoyed but to remind the eater of suffering is sadly lost on people like me who like bitter herbs and bland flat bread. The only Seders I've attended were those at my friend Steve Gutin's, where the question "Why is tonight not like any other night?" was inevitably answered with "Because tonight Aunt Esther is going to lose her place if anyone strays so much as one word from the evening's prepared materials." Other nights, she was just generally confused. I miss those nights.
2. Getting Ashes on Ash Wednesday
Don't know why, but getting dirt smeared on my forehead, being marked for the day, appeals to me. This past Ash Wednesday I had so much smeared on my forehead it looked like I was getting ready for a minstrel show.
3. Blessing of the Throats on St. Blaise Day
St. Blaise is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, a group of saints who protect against illnesses and everyday difficulties. Blaise is the saint who protects against throat ailments and infections. On the Sunday closest to February 3rd, the Blessing of the Throats is offered after mass: the priest holds across your throat two unlit candles that have been tied at the bottom and mutters a short prayer. Afterwards you'll probably overhear someone say that they had a sore throat but now are starting to feel better. It's such a strange ritual, which is probably part of its appeal.
4. Saying "God Bless You" After Someone Sneezes
It's just polite.
Yes, I realize this is a fairly short list of rituals.