The Tooth Ceremony: a special rite of passage

The Tooth Ceremony: a special rite of passage

Inspired by Jackie Singer’s Coming of Age article in issue 27 of JUNO (Spring 2012), Vicky Sherrard shares a special family celebration

My youngest child is so excited, because she has her first wobbly tooth. Yes, of course the Tooth Fairy will come, and that will be fun, but she is also excited because she knows she will at last qualify for a Tooth Ceremony. In our house we have a ceremony and party to celebrate this important event. I want to spread the word about Tooth Ceremonies, because to me, losing the first tooth is the beginning of a new stage of life for our children, and I want to mark it with them. I believe in the importance of marking our milestones with rituals, making them memorable and special. The more I think about it, the more I come to see that celebrating rites of passage throughout our lives is a fundamental way in which we form and hold our identity. The toddler and young child needs to understand where the boundaries are in her life, so that she can relax into rhythms and routines, knowing at every point what is expected of her, and therefore, the beginnings of knowing who she is. So it is with rites of passage. As we grow and develop, there are things we can notice and mark: first tooth, walking, losing the first tooth, menstruation, voice breaking, adulthood. Yes, and then of course marriage, parenthood, divorce, being 40 or reaching middle age, the end of menstrual life, retirement, death.

At each turn, marking these potent times can help us to know who we are, and where we stand in relation to others we know and in the grand scheme of things. These are some of the boundaries within which we can live and flourish all through our lives. “I am a middle-aged menstruating woman, I am a mother, I am divorced.” This actually helps me to know myself. When we mark these turning-points with our family and loved ones, then they become real and significant.

So, my little girl, Fern, will soon lose her first tooth. She will pass forever out of the stage of babyhood, and into the stage of a fully grown child. In this year she will also go up to Class 1 from the Kindergarten at Lancaster Steiner School. She will really know what a big girl she is!

We will invite special people to come to the Tooth Ceremony: family, neighbours and friends. Those of us who have already lost a tooth will stand in a line, one in front of the other, and make a tunnel with our legs. The person at the end will hold a piece of red cloth. The child will crawl through the tunnel (this is the fun bit!), and emerge, through the red cloth, just as his first Big Tooth will emerge through his gum, and he will feel somehow subtly different and special. That is the magic of ritual. Other children may also crawl through, so long as they have also lost a tooth. Even grown-ups can, if they want.

I heartily encourage you all to embrace the Tooth Ceremony. Let’s make it an ordinary part of the way in which we cherish our children and ourselves. 


Vicky Sherrard is the owner of Honour Your Flow menstrual products. She lives with her son, Angel, aged 9, and her daughter, Fern, aged 6. They live in a cosy cottage in the Lake District, and the children go to Lancaster Steiner School.

Photo by cottonbro studio


First published in issue 28 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print. 

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