August 31, 2010

Traditions: Belles

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They re-enact their simple ritual every April: In a darkened room, about 70 young women — members of the Belles service organization — gather in two circles. The inner circle is composed of some 20 seniors about to graduate and leave the group; in the outer circle are the other members, who promise to continue the service and traditions that bind them all. In the very center, a large candle, and the room’s only source of light.

The first senior lights her candle from the central flame and relates her memories and wisdom. When she’s done, she lights the candle of the next senior and also gives her own still-lit candle away to a younger Belle. After each senior has shared with her sisters, the inner circle of graduating Belles is dark, yet the room is alight with the candles of the others, the Belles who will carry on.