How ritual resists the march of time

The introduction of a social innovation is resisted in a remote community in Wales through an annual ritual acknowledging the more ancient tradition

The social innovation is the Gregorian calendar. In 1752 an attempt was made to adjust the calendar to arrange the festivals of midwinter and midsummer to reflect the actual seasons. Several weeks were lopped of the year. Some resistance occurred for this as in most social innovations. Resistance is likely to be strongest in rural locations isolated from the dynamic hubs of change.

The BBC reports the story from such a location in South West Wales:

The people of the Gwaun Valley near Fishguard in Pembrokeshire ignored this decree and carried on regardless.
In keeping with tradition, [on New Year’s day by the ancient Julian calendar] children from the valley walk from house to house and sing traditional songs in Welsh which have not altered for centuries.
In return, householders shower them with sweets and money – or “calennig”, literally “New Year gift or celebration”.
The local school, Ysgol Llanychllwydog in Pontfaen, will be open but the teachers are not expecting to see much of their 25 pupils that day.

Of course, for much of the year, the community lives with the Gregorian calendar. now standardised internationally. Note however, that there are also alternatives in several cultures also co-existing and respecting older cultural traditions aropund the world.

The story is of interest as an example of how ritual helps retain an old traditional way of thinking.


2 Responses to How ritual resists the march of time

  1. Adrian Gheorghiu says:

    The story is a good metaphor for the global corporate environment – for example mergers with expectations of a future “common way of working” to be established across large groups and different cultures.

    My personal observation is that resistance is increasing proportionally with the level of prescription and impact on “shared values” when implementing a “new way” or the “one way”. During the change, the tension can create genuine new opportunities and progress can be achieved when the culture, the “values and beliefs expressed as attitudes and behaviours” are at the centre of the strategies and change.

    In the article “Why Culture Will Defeat Strategy Every Time” Kevin Burns quotes the Merck CEO saying “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

    Kevin goes a step further and writes about the group culture and the role it plays in organisations:

    “Culture is the pulse of your organization. It is the “how we do things here” or how things are NOT done in many instances. Culture is the result of the collective attitudes in the building coming together and either working together or falling apart together”

    Kevin B, “Why Culture Will Defeat Strategy Every Time”. (online) [accessed Jan, 2012]

    That suggests that the “designed” new way at the start of any change journey is likely to become a “fusion way”. The goals should be the same but the path to achieve them will only be sustainable when creating a culture that will integrate and celebrate diverse values and beliefs.

    With that, a great dilemma will have to be addressed – will the “fusion way” create the value expected and anticipated during initial design?

  2. Thanks Adrian. I had a look at Kevin’s blog. It’s of interest to me, and I suspect to other LWD readers. Best wishes.

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