Beliefnet
Have a question about another faith's religious ceremonies--or your own? E-mail columnists@staff.beliefnet.com with "Etiquette" in the subject line.

I'm Sikh and have been invited to a party for a friend's son who's having his Communion. What gifts would be appropriate? Something more religious or secular?

First Communion gifts tend to be more serious-minded and educational than birthday presents, so pass on the G.I. Joe X-treem Tanks. That said, a non-violent secular toy is probably fine, depending on how devout the family is. If you want to play it safe, lean towards religion. The following are good bets:
  • A children's book that teaches values or, if the child is Catholic, that illustrates the life of a saint.
  • A "First Communion Day Album," often available in Hallmark stores.
  • A Bible-related game. These are sold in Christian stores or major toy stores and include board games like "Bible Pictionary."

    More devout options like prayer books can be found in Christian stores and websites like this one. It's probable that your friend's son will receive a children's Bible (and a rosary, if they're Catholic) from family members, so you might want to skip those.

    If you're more comfortable with a secular gift, go with a white picture frame for photos of the Big Day.

    Minor linguistic point: Christians "receive" Communion rather than "having" it. So when you greet your friend's son, you might say "Congratulations on receiving your First Communion."

    Why is the date for Easter different each year?

    It has to do with celestial beings, but not the ones you might think. Most Western Christian churches, including Protestant and Catholic churches, celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (whew!).

    Eastern churches like the Greek Orthodox Church use a different calendar. Their Pascha (Easter) falls a week later than Western Easter.

    The aunt of a practicing Hindu coworker has died, and the family is traveling overseas for the funeral services. What would be an appropriate way for our business to express condolences? Are flowers for the family when they return appropriate? We don't want to offend or ignore a more appropriate tradition.

    Sending flowers would certainly be a kind gesture and would offend no one, but keep in mind that it's a Western tradition not common in most Hindu communities. If you do send them, avoid bright colors (white is traditionally associated with Hindu funerals)--you might try white or pale yellow flowers.

    Be aware, too, that family members of the deceased typically do not go out in the days after the funeral; friends visit them in their home.

    Hindu tradition stipulates a series of rites to honor the dead and comfort the grieving, including one-month and one-year anniversary rituals. This article explains what Hindu ceremonies your coworker might be participating in or planning for.

    I am a Roman Catholic and my husband is Jewish. We have a 6-month-old who we would like to be baptized. We would like the godparents to be my husband's sister and her husband, who are both Jewish.

    The churches near me will not allow this. My husband's family is wonderful and I would not hesitate to entrust my daughter to their care. I am sure they would support her faith as a Catholic. Is there any sort of permission I could get? I feel the church is condescending.


    I'm afraid you're out of luck. As you've probably learned from the churches near you, the Catholic Church requires two godparents: one must be Catholic, and the other must be either Catholic or a baptized non-Catholic Christian (whose formal title is "Christian witness").

    It may seem restrictive, but keep in mind that the role of godparents (read more) is not simply to support a Catholic child's faith, but to be a Christian role model. One question posed to the parents during the baptismal ceremony is: "It will be your duty to bring [your child] up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?" The godparents will be asked to affirm that they support the parents in doing this. As wonderful and loving as your husband's family may be, they might not feel comfortable taking on this role even if some loophole could be found.

    Your wish to include your sister-in-law and her husband in your child's spiritual life is admirable. One way to do this might be to ask them to say a blessing for your baby at a private gathering in your home.

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