Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Have questions about another religion's customs? Scroll down to ask Arthur Magida, author of "How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies."
I've invited a group of clients to my home for dinner and just learned that one guest is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and another is a Muslim. I don't know anything about these religions. Are there dietary restrictions that I need to plan my menu around?
--Sandra Korinchak, Salem, MA
Sounds like a pretty interesting dinner party. I wouldn't mind an invitation. But since I won't be there to whisper cooking tips in your ear, I'll give you some advance advice. You should know that Mormons don't touch tea, coffee and alcohol. And since they consider wheat God's special gift to humans (other grains were intended for both humans and animals, but wheat was reserved for people), Mormons emphasize it in what they serve and eat. So you might want to have a special bread at the table, maybe even one you made yourself.
Most devout Muslims don't touch alcohol; their dietary restrictions forbid any products from a pig and permit only meat (called "hallal" meat) that has been killed in accordance with Muslim ritual practices. Hallal grocers and butchers are in most large cities these days. If you can't find one, think about serving a vegetarian dish.
In our household, the recurring question is, "I'm a Protestant. My wife is a Catholic. Under what circumstances can I take communion in her church?"
--C.R., Baltimore, MD
Why would you even want to take communion in your wife's church? If you're a devout Protestant, you probably believe Catholics misinterpret the Eucharist. And if she's a devout Catholic, she probably thinks Protestant communion lacks the power of the Catholic Eucharist.
To a staunch Catholic, a Protestant Eucharist is the same as sipping ordinary wine or eating an ordinary wafer or piece of bread. Most Catholics believe that wine and bread are "transubstantiated" at communion, that Christ is present--body and blood, soul and divinity--in every particle and drop of the consecrated substances.
But in most Protestant denominations, bread and wine (orsometimes, grape juice) symbolize Jesus' body and blood and his sacrifice on the cross.
It's understandable that the two of you would want to participate in the same rites in the same church. But you need the OK of the bishop of her diocese, and that rarely happens since it would indicate that all Christians share identical beliefs about communion.
The daughter of an office colleague, who's Hindu, is getting married, and he's invited me to the wedding. I've heard that at Hindu weddings you're not supposed to bring presents if the family of the groom has invited you--or is it the family of the bride?
--A.M., Towson, MD
Since the bride's family invited you, you are expected to bring a present. If the invitation had come from the groom's family, you'd be off the hook since the dowry is supposed to come from the bride, not the groom.
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