Rites of Passage

12038550_1084185781592300_6353120718611067352_nThe birth of a Jewish child involves rituals. When a daughter is born the father has the honor of blessing the reading of the Torah, an Aliyah, at a synagogue on the first Sabbath. A blessing is also delivered for the well being of the mother and baby. If the baby is a girl, her name is then announced. Subsequently, the parents are honored at a congregational Kiddush. A baby boy is given a brit milah (circumcision) and named on the eighth day of his life. If the baby is a first-born son, pidyon haben, a ritual/celebration is held on the thirtieth day. More recently there have been ceremonies of celebration at home, called b’rit bat, for the birth of a daughter.

Source: “B’rit Bat: Ceremony for Welcoming a Baby Girl,” Reform Judaism. Accessed September 18, 2015. http://www.reformjudaism.org/brit-bat-ceremony-welcoming-baby-girl

Karen Companez. “What Is Pidyon Haben?” Reform Judaism. Accessed September 18, 2015. http://www.reformjudaism.org/what-pidyon-haben

Tracey R. Rich, “Judaism 101: Birth and the First Month of Life.” Judaism 101: Birth and the First Month of Life. Accessed September 18, 2015.http://www.jewfaq.org/birth.htm

“RITES OF PASSAGE – BIRTH AND BAR/BAT MITZVAH.” Rites of Passage. Accessed September 18, 2015. http://www.ijs.org.au/Rites-of-Passage/default.aspx

photo: http://fadeawaydunk07.weebly.com/judaism.html


12019996_1052665404757695_4267250681447310445_nWhen a Muslim baby is first born, the first words he or she must hear are from a prayer to Allah, which is whispered to the baby by the father. The first taste babies experience must be sweet because it is believed this well help their digestion. Seven days after birth, the baby’s head is shaved to represent his or her servitude to Allah. This hair is then weighed and the family must give silver to a charity weighing the same amount. Muslim boys are also typically circumcised after seven days.

Source: “Muslim Birth Rites,” BBC News (August 18, 2009). Accessed September 20, 2015. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/ritesrituals/birth.shtml.


ShowImageThe rite of circumcision is one of the older rites in Judaism, dating back almost four thousand years. This rite differs among Jewish denominations and time periods. The Galician Karaite Jews of the 19th century performed circumcision differently. Their circumcision rite takes place on the seventh day and in a synagogue. The procedure is done using a special razor only used for circumcisions, called an iligic. After the circumcision, the hazzan takes the child’s blood and smears it on the child’s forehead. Then he blesses the child, along with the serbet, which is a special drink that is consumed after the ceremony. This rite differs greatly from the Rabbanite Jewish traditions, where the circumcision is done through tearing. Also the Karaites do not suck the wound to draw out the blood like the Rabbanites. After the circumcision, the hazzan gives the child a name and everyone present drinks the serbet. The rite of circumcision is very important to Jewish culture and has changed throughout centuries.

Sources: Mikhail Kizilov.  The Karaites of Galicia: An Ethnoreligious Minority among the Ashkenazim, the Turks and the Slavs 1772-1945, 142-44. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2009, pp. 142-144.

Daniel B. Syme, “B’rit Milah: The Circumcision Ritual.” ReformJudaism.org. Accessed September 20, 2015. http://www.reformjudaism.org/brit-milah-circumcision-ritual.


12038388_1022806554404573_4926831943781487191_nIn a Russian Orthodox church, baptism is taken very seriously. The baptism is a special 45-minute service and contains three parts. The first part is the prayers to the person being baptized. The people in the church would pray for the person being baptized to be saved by God from the power of the devil and be given eternal life. Also, unlike other religions, the person being baptized would have to be old enough to say that s/he has turned away from the devil and only accepts Jesus Christ as his/her King and God. The second part consists of prayers to ensure the water is blessed and that God will be the cleanser of the person being baptized. After the baptism, the person is given a white robe and a cross as a sign of purity and God’s victory. The third part consists of anointing with Holy Chrism, readings from the New Testament, and a small amount of hair will be cut from the baptized person and will be given to God as the first offering. During the service, there must be two witnesses, preferably Orthodox Christians known to the church, along with the priest.

Source: “Baptism and Reception into the Orthodox Church,” Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. Accessed Sept 18, 2015. http://www.stnicholaswallsend.org.au/specialservices.html


12004875_158622741146032_6750463282820830516_nChrismation is a sacrament in the Eastern Orthodox Church in which a person who has been baptized receives the Holy Spirit. The sacrament is administered by anointing the newly baptized individual with chrism. The chrism is a combination of forty “sweet-smelling substances” and olive oil. One characteristic of Confirmation is that the priest anoints the individual and it remains on them (unwashed) until the priest washes it off seven days later. Perhaps the most significant distinction between Confirmation in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church is that in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Confirmation is administered directly after the baptism.

Sources: “Chrismation,” Wikipedia. Sept 18, 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrismation#Common_part_of_the_rite

Michael J. Buben, “What is Holy Chrismation?” The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Sept 18, 2015. http://www.antiochian.org/Orthodox_Church_Who_What_Where_Why/What_Is_Holy_Chrismation.htm


12003379_1185881171440960_4178457924525901424_nHoly communion, also known as Eucharist, is the second among the two religious sacraments Lutherans and many other Christians take throughout their lives, the first being holy baptism. The first communion is a rite of passage where Lutheran youth, usually spanning from ages 5-14, undergo a ceremony acknowledging Eucharist as the genuine taking of Christ’s body and blood, or at least recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit in these representations in the Lutheran religion. To prepare for the rite of passage the child undergoes Catechism which teaches him or her the principles of the Christian faith. After this educational process is complete, a church service dedicates time in a service to recognize the youth as true believers in the Christian faith, and from this point on they are allowed to participate in Eucharist. In the Lutheran tradition the first communion is an event filled with celebration, usually involving a gathering of the church’s members after or before the service.

Sources: “Lutheran Church & First Communion,” Opposing Views. Accessed Sept 20, 2015. http://people.opposingviews.com/lutheran-church-first-communion-2607.html

“What Happens During a First Communion?” Opposing Views. Accessed Sept 20, 2015. http://people.opposingviews.com/happens-during-first-communion-3101.html


12002184_10203067698493907_7089167272762311900_nIn the Catholic Church Confirmation is a rite of passage in which a young adult confirms his or her faith in God and membership in the Catholic Church. Confirmation is a way for those who have been baptized to affirm what their parents had done for them as an infant. Prior to Confirmation, students are required to take classes to prepare them for this journey. Confirmation is conducted by a bishop with a group of candidates during a special mass. During this mass candidates are presented by someone who has helped prepare them for their confirmation. After a sermon the candidates will renew their baptismal promises and then be anointed with oil in the shape of a cross on their forehead. After the mass ends there is usually a reception in which Certificates of Confirmation are presented.

Sources: “Confirmation,” The Parish Church of St. James. Accessed Sept 17, 2015. http://www.stjames-hamptonhill.org.uk/WshSer/Conf.htm

“Religious Rites Of Passage: All About Confirmation,” Essortment. Accessed Sept 17, 2015. http://www.essortment.com/religious-rites-passage-confirmation-42447.html


12002971_10153689692683291_7986233867923658520_nA Bar Mitzvah is a rite of passage for 13 year old boys and 12 year old girls as they transition into adulthood. Bar means “son” and Mitzvah means “commandment.” According to the Jewish law it is not necessary for a child to have a Bar Mitzvah party to become an adult. The main point of the celebration is for the children becoming adults to observe the commandments. After this the young adult reads a passage or blessing from the Torah during one of their weekly masses, also known as their first Aliyah. The celebrant usually gives a speech about becoming a man (or a woman) and a blessing from their father is observed too at most times. Orthodox Jews do not celebrate Bat Mitzvahs for girls.

Sources: Tracey R. Rich, “Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation,” Judaism 101. Accessed Sept 17, 2015. http://www.jewfaq.org/barmitz.htm

“Bar Mitzvah 101,” Chabad. Accessed Sept 17, 2015. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1912609/jewish/Bar-Mitzvah-101.htm


sacramentconfessionDuring Russian Orthodox confession one confesses all of the sins that he or she has committed (intentional or not). The ritual takes place in front of the gospel, a priest, and a blessed cross. Confession is a very serious thing in the Russian Orthodox faith, one is expected to remember every sin that they committed, forgetting is not an option. Each sin is to be confessed individually, showing repentance, without attempting to justify it in anyway. It is believed that if one confesses his or her sins with faith in their Lord, s/he will be forgiven.

Sources: “Proper Confession and Communion,” Orthodox Christian Information Center. Accessed Sept 18, 2015. http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/communionprep.aspx

“The Sacrament of Confession,” Orthodox Church in America. Accessed Sept 18, 2015. http://oca.org/questions/sacramentconfession


12038432_1097956750234129_2669932831086692812_nThe process of healing in the Orthodox Church is based off of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Although God banished them from the Garden of Eden, according to the Book of Genesis, he did not abandon them entirely, giving them access to Him through prayer. With the death of Christ, the relationship between God and man was restored by giving people eternal life after death, instating the original source of healing: Baptism. In the Orthodox Church, the soul is superior to the body, therefore healing the soul takes precedent over the healing of the body. Sickness is seen as being a way of actually cleansing the soul and must be endured. During Holy Week Orthodox Christians may perform the Mystery of Holy Unction as a way to cleanse both the healthy and the sick as a way to bring about blessings from God. The priest blesses the people with holy oils as a rite of healing. Ultimately, physical and spiritual healing must be brought forth through prayer to God in the Orthodox faith.
Source: George Morelli. “The Ethos of Orthodox Christian Healing.” The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (November 18, 2006) Accessed 20 September 2015. http://www.antiochian.org/morelli/the-ethos-of-orthodox-christian-healing

Image: http://www.frpeterpreble.com/2014/04/great-and-holy-wednesday-the-unction-service.html


11014871_2484950078138_6471173882087328068_nThe tradition of breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding signifies completed nuptials and marks the end of the ceremony, but represents the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some couples recite “If I forget thee, Oh Jerusalem” to remind them of their history while remembering to keep Jerusalem above their “highest joy.” Initially just the chatan (groom) would break a glass but it is common in the West for the kallah (bride) to break one also. There is debate over what kind of glass to use (betrothal or nuptial) but today it is usually a prepared glass or even a light bulb.

Sources: Chaplain Shlomo Shulman, “Guide to the Jewish Wedding,” Aish.com. Accessed Sept 16, 2015. http://www.aish.com/jl/l/m/48969841.html

Shoshanna Lockshin, “Breaking the Glass at a Jewish Wedding,” My Jewish Learning. Accessed Sept 16, 2015. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/breaking-the-glass-at-a-jewish-wedding/

Image: http://www.smashingtheglass.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/breaking-the-glass.jpg


12036464_996284853762882_3539293122177466749_nA wedding in Romania, is very significant for the bride. A traditional Romanian wedding is seen as a symbolic death because the bride and groom losses their youth and their virginity. The ceremony usually a three day village wedding. The wedding is a celebration of the women’s honor. The most interesting part of the wedding celebration is the undressing of the bride. The undressing of the bride occurs at her parents’ home. The bride is surrounded by married women who dance around her, singing while she is undressed. The married women tell the bride to leave her crown with her mother. The crown symbolizes her virginity. The mother then takes the crown and buries it. Flowers will grow in the memory of the virgin.

Source: Gail Kligman. The Wedding of the Dead: Ritual, Poetics, and Popular Culture in Transylvania. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.


11143369_1001278613245093_6064928600180702363_nIslamic Marriage is considered an essential rite for couples to carry out the rights and responsibilities of both the bridge and groom, such as having children. Marriage in Imperial Russia required official documentation in order for the collection of special marital taxes levied amongst non-Christians. The Russian monarchy rarely permitted interfaith marriages, particularly of Muslims who sought to marry Christians. Even if a ceremony and the signatures took place under the presence of a Mullah or Imam, marriages required official notarization by the Imperial Russian state. Those who entered into an improperly performed Islamic wedding therefore could face punishment under Islamic and Russian law.

 Sources: Allen J. Frank. Muslim Religious Institutions in Imperial Russia: The Islamic World of Novouzensk District and the Kazakh Inner Horde, 1780-1910. Leiden: Brill, 2001. 

Agnè̀s Nilüfer Kefeli. Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.


12009734_10206494003642034_8551083604377940504_nThe Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony centers around bringing the man and wife together under the name of God, and for God. There are two parts: the Betrothal Service and the Crowning Service, each interspersed with readings from the priest to recognize and pray to God, resulting in a union where the man and woman struggle together towards eternal life. The Crowning Service is a specific ritual involving lighting candles to represent the eternal flame and a sponsor who crowns the couple with simple crowns that are blessed by the priest and crosses their heads three times before setting them down. The Crowning Service has been done since the 2nd pr 3rd century, and unlike the monarchal meaning of the crowns, these represent the couple ruling over their own household motivated by their humility, patience and self-sacrificial love.

Sources: Charles Joanides, “A Short Summary of the Sacrament of Marriage,” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Accessed Sept 18, 2015. http://www.goarch.org/archdiocese/departments/marriage/interfaith/premarital-preparation/shortsummarymarriage

Threeundertwo, “Vintage Thingies Thursday: Greek Wedding Crowns,” Lit and Laundry. Accessed Sept 18, 2015. http://www.litandlaundry.com/2008/08/vintage-thingies-thursday-greek-wedding.html