Rites of passage are the ritual landmarks that show the proper way of observing important events of life. They mark both the transitional period and initiation into a different religious and/or social standings. The purpose of these rites is to promote social harmony by integrating the values and traditions of a society or religion into someone who is or will be a full- fledged member. Rites of passage occur primarily at the major points in life: birth, puberty, marriage, and death.

There are inumerrable expressions, variations, and manifestations of these rites in cultures and faiths all around the world. Here are few examples: baptism, circumcision (male and female), Edin Toa (Akan baby naming ceremony, from Ghana), body-piercing, First Communion, Confirmation, Bar-Mitvah/Bat-Mitvah, Sweet Sixteen, graduation from studies, vision quests, Sunrise Ceremonial (Apache), Seijin-no-hi (a girl's coming of age in Japan), Quinceañera (Latin American equiv. of Sweet Sixteen, at age 15), Mehendi party (Pakistani pre-marital tradition), betrothal, hand-fasting, weddings, baby showers, wedding anniversaries, birthday celebrations, divorce, Last Rites, and funerals.

Many modern cultures are putting progressively less emphasis on religious rites of passage, but echoes of religious tradition are still found in the more secular traditions of today ( especially weddings and funerals).

Other rites are purely societal, such as graduation, turning 21 (legal drinking age in America), getting a driving license, joining a university fraternity/sorority, baby showers, losing one's virginity, wedding anniversaries, retirement parties, and birthday parties.

In contemporary life, many of the old traditions have lost their power, but we still feel the need to celebrate a growing number of transitions in an increasingly complex society. Ways of honouring these moments might be as simple as the custom of opening a bottle of champagne, blowing out candles on a cake, going out to eat at a favourite restaurant, or dancing with joy upon receiving good news.

These rites of passage collectively are a reflection of the cycle of life, those events which are common to us all, while at the same time encouraging us to rejoice in the breadth of individual experience.