Religion Q&A: Did I Stiff the Bat Mitzvah Girl?

Plus: Cash gifts for Hindus, seder presents, and Catholic conversion rites.

Have a question about another religion's ceremonies and traditions? Write to and include "religious etiquette" in the subject line.

My husband and I were unable to attend my first cousin's daughter's Bat Mitzvah. We rarely see them, nor do we talk/communicate on a regular basis. My parents are closer to them and see them more regularly. Anyway, we sent a check for $50. My parents gave a check for $200. My parents say we didn't give enough. On the other hand, my husband's nephew is getting Bar Mitzvah'd soon, and we will be attending. My feeling is that I think we should give more money to him because we see them often, they live near us, and we are closer in relationship. Did I give enough to my cousin's daughter, and how much should we give my husband's nephew?

Unless you suspect that the two kids will sneakily compare notes about their relatives' generosity--which seems unlikely, based on your mail--there's really not a problem here. Your reasons are fair and admissable in the Beliefnet Court of Religion Etiquette.

And there's absolutely no reason for you to feel guilty. The amount of your gift is entirely up to you. Give your husband's nephew whatever you feel is appropriate. If they ask, tell your parents that you're happy for both young people, but feel closer to the nephew and therefore wanted to do a little more for him. Resist the urge to send a followup check to the girl in New York. Then sleep the sleep of the just.


Last weekend, I visited a Hindu temple that is conducting a fundraising campaign. I was struck by the fact that the fund-raising levels (you know: patron, donor, sponsor, etc.) as well as all of the pujas had prices that were even amounts plus $1--for example, $101 or $251. There was a clear and obvious avoidance of even amounts. What is behind this?

It's just tradition: Hindus consider odd-numbered amounts lucky. Similar odd/even number customs are found in other countries, sometimes irrespective of religion. In the U.S., roses traditionally come by the dozen (not in bunches of ten or nine). If you handed a dozen roses to a Russian, however, they'd do a doubletake--in Russia, even numbers of flowers are only given at funerals.

I am Christian and have been invited to a seder. What is proper etiquette to bring to the hostess? Flowers, wine, something I could prepare?

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