Religion Q&A: What Happened to 'A.D.' and 'B.C.'?

Plus: Bat mitzvah gifts, tipping the priest at a baptism, and how to greet a Buddhist lama

BY: Laura Sheahen


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Could you please tell me what a customary gift is for a Bat Mitzvah? It is for my boss' daughter. Is it appropriate to give a gift certificate to his daughter's favorite clothing store? I believe that most gifts have Jewish meaning, but since I am not Jewish, I would like to know an appropriate alternative. Also, what is customary as far as the dollar amount that is spent on the gift? --Tracy

A gift certificate to a clothing store is perfectly fine, especially if you're worried about what to give. The amount depends completely on what you can afford and what you feel comfortable with. That said, anything from $25-$75 is not uncommon.

If you feel bold and want to buy a specifically Jewish gift, you could give a mezuzah (a small scroll case containing a Bible verse), Kiddush cup (a wine cup for the Sabbath), or a book about Judaism. Here at Beliefnet, we're fond of our columnist Joseph Telushkin's "Jewish Literacy" or "Book of Jewish Values: A Day-By-Day Guide to Ethical Living."

A close friend has asked my husband to be the godfather of their newborn son. I remember hearing once that it is customary for the godfather to tip (for lack of a better word) the priest who performs the ceremony. Is this the case? If so, should it be cash in an envelope, should he include a short note thanking the priest? --Jill

Neither the baby's parents nor the godparents are under any obligation to "tip" a Catholic priest officiating at a baptism. However, many families do give the church a monetary gift in gratitude for the priest's services, and to cover the cost of such ceremonies (keeping the church lit and air-conditioned, for example). Some parishes formally request a donation when preparing parents for the baptism (see, for example, this church's

letter to parents


According to Father James Martin of America Magazine, a donation from $25 to $100 would be appropriate, depending on the family's circumstances. Typically, this gift would be provided by the baby's parents and would be given to the priest or to the parish office. Religious-order priests (such as Franciscans) are required to turn in to their superiors any honorariums they receive, however small; diocesan priests are not, but would ordinarily turn in to their parish any amount larger than a token sum.

It's unlikely that the parents would ask the godfather to spearhead the transaction. However, if asked, your husband's best bet is to talk to someone who works at the church to see what's customary in the parish.

And to answer your final question: Thank-you notes are never amiss, but ordinarily should come from the parents.

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