My son is 9 years old and will go through his thread ceremony this summer. He is a bright and curious child whose favorite phrase is "but why mommy?". Not surprisingly we are having some difficulty explaining the purpose and necessity of the ritual. To be honest, in my husband's community upanayanam has become a style over substance event with enough pomp and show to rival a wedding. I've tried the "initiation of education" explanation but that is not cutting it. My husband's idea of helping is telling him that he will get a boatload of gifts if he sits through it. He has a lot of questions that I am not equipped to handle. My husband and I are irreligious and don't feel strongly either way. We have committed to this for my in laws' sake. It will mean the world to them and I wouldn't dream of depriving them of this joy. But I want this grand production to mean something to my son, so he doesn't remember it as a meaningless party. While growing up in India we had enough cultural context to develop an intuitive understanding of social obligations versus personal beliefs. How would you convince a child raised in the American idiom in a non-religious household that traditions and rituals in cultures that have been around for a long time have meaning beyond the literal? How do I contextualize an ages old ceremony that no longer serves a real purpose but is cherished nevertheless?