Jonas's Father gives him the old, "I remember when I was your age" opener, and Jonas starts thinking about all the other Ceremonies he's witnessed, like The Ceremony for the Ones, when Lily was, you know, a One.
Turns out, every year, there are exactly fifty babies. And when they turn One, they get named.
Jonas's Father confesses that he can sneak a peak at the naming list before it's publicly announced. As a matter of fact, he's already done so for the little sick baby boy he talked about earlier. The kid's name is Gabriel. Or "Gabe," as Jonas's Father likes to call him.
So we learn that all these Ceremonies take place over two days in December; that is, The Ceremony for the Ones and The Ceremony of Twelve, etc. Every year, something happens for a kid. For example, when he's nine, he gets his bicycle. Every child becomes a year older together—no one has an individual birthday.
Although it's against the rules to ride a bike before you turn nine, apparently this is one of the few rules that everybody breaks. (Like jay-walking.)
Apparently, once the rules are established, they're really hard to change.
The rules are decided by the Elders, really old people.
The head honcho is The Receiver, whom no one ever sees.
Meanwhile, Jonas's Father is still reminiscing about when he was a kid.
Through his remembering, we learn what this big mysterious Ceremony of Twelve really means: it's when everyone learns what his or her profession is going to be. Since Jonas's Father was always so good with kids, he knew he'd be a Nurturer.
It turns out that the Elders watch the young people (in a not at all creepy way…) to figure out what job they should have.
Jonas wonders what Asher will be assigned—it seems the kid is a bit of a class clown.
Jonas's Mother explains that the Ceremony of Twelve is the last ceremony; after that, no one keeps track of how old he/she is anymore. They stop seeing their friends, and life basically becomes about their work after that.
At that moment, Lily shows up to ask for her "comfort object." (And with a name like that, who wouldn't?) Her Mother reminds her that when she becomes an Eight, she won't be allowed to keep her comfort object anymore.
The object is a stuffed elephant, which Lily receives and happily takes to bed with her.
Jonas knows that comfort objects are always imaginary creatures, like elephants. His own had also been an imaginary creature, called "a bear." (!)
So the private conversation is over, but Jonas still has no idea what he might be assigned as a profession.