In my experience, we do not fully understand the difference between a "formal" activity and a "ceremonial" activity.
For instance, often times when I've asked student volunteers to design a formal structure for a workshop, they'll come out with things like, who will give the welcome address, who will be the chief guest, who will offer bouquet to who, and so on. They even have "dress rehearsals" like in a drama.
But what I would have expected was for them to conceptualize what are the objectives of the workshop and how will the workshop be structured to meet those objectives? How will the workshop be divided into sessions so that they are coherent and has maximum learning impact? How will the success of the workshop be measured? How will the findings be disseminated? And so on..
I used to give this analogy to distinguish between a formal and a ceremonial activity. If a formal activity is analogous to a soldier fighting on the border, a ceremonial activity is like an actor playing the role of a soldier fighting on the border.
Ceremonies require dress rehearsals, formal activities do not.
But here is the thing.
An actor doing an expert performance of playing the role of a soldier fighting a war, can evoke the same emotions in the audience that the soldier may have experienced.
A ceremonial activity has enough structure to encapsulate emotions that would be triggered corresponding to the intensity of the experience being conveyed.
In that sense, the fundamental job of a ceremony is to communicate; while the fundamental job of a formal activity is to reduce complexity and get something done efficiently.
And the reason why ceremonies are so prevalent in our culture is that modern media and information and communication technologies were non-existent even in living memory. Ceremonial activities served as the social memory to preserve and propagate ideas that were deemed important. As noted in a previous post, ceremonies also were an important element for retaining social sanity in times of crises.
Ceremonial activities have their purpose, but they are not the same as formal activities.