December 2018

Evangelism or Colonization? Lingering Questions After Missionary John Allen Chau’s Death
The death of American missionary John Allen Chau at the hands of indigenous Sentinelese people has spurred quite a bit of debate.

The death of American missionary John Allen Chau at the hands of indigenous Sentinelese people has spurred quite a bit of debate.

The death of American missionary John Allen Chau at the hands of indigenous Sentinelese people has spurred quite a bit of debate. Some blame Chau for his own demise, pointing to the tribe’s desire to be left alone and his disregard of Indian laws restricting visitation to the island. Meanwhile, a few others regard him as a martyr for his faith. Alongside these comments, larger questions are being raised about the ethics of missionary work. To understand the reasons behind these critiques, it’s vital to learn about the history of missions and how they’ve influenced cultures around the world.

A Brief Overview of Christian Missions

The Encyclopedia Britannica places the beginnings of Christian missionary work during the first century C.E. Paul of Tarsus and his fellow believers managed to spread the fledgling faith outside of Judea into Asia Minor, southern Greece, and then ancient Rome. Eventually, Christian missionaries reached some areas of Europe such as the British Isles, Holland, and Germany. Meanwhile, rulers such as Charlemagne imposed the faith upon their conquered populations. Over the next few centuries, European expeditions backed by both monarchs and the Roman church attempted to expand the reach of their faiths and empires.

Missionary Work’s Dark History in Canada

Emory University’s ScholarBlogs reveals that the “white man’s burden” concept focused on colonialist advancement by “civilization, commerce, and Christianity.” Thus, religion became a tool by which European morals were forced upon native populations while promoting the exploitation of lands, resources, and peoples throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

The Canadian Encyclopedia refers to early Christian missions among Canadian Indigenous peoples as an “ostensible motive for European occupation.” Facing History and Ourselves cites Indian residential schools as a salient example of how First Nations civilizations were impacted in horrific ways. History reveals that these government-funded church-run institutions sought to replace Indigenous children’s cultures with a “civilized” Western version. Children at the residential schools were forbidden to speak their original languages or engage in their native cultural and religious traditions.

Understanding Chau’s Motives

One telling detail about John Allen Chau’s motives may come from his own journal. A CNN article published on November 23 revealed that he questioned whether North Sentinel Island was “Satan’s last stronghold.” Chau may have believed that he should obey what many Christians call “the Great Commission,” or the act of spreading Jesus’s teachings and making disciples. Yet many sources, including ABC News and The Root, report that Chau’s explicit purpose was to convert the Sentinelese islanders.

Several Protestant evangelical sects consider the Great Commission as an imperative that every Christian must follow, but modern thinkers wrestle with deeper questions about the meaning of this directive. Patheos columnist Paul Louis Metzger opined that modern missionaries must avoid colonizing by educating individuals instead of moralizing and oppressing them. Saba Imtiaz also describes how some progressive Christian denominations emphasize humanitarian aid rather than proselyting in a March 2018 article for The Atlantic.

Still others argue that Christian missions and their colonialist histories cannot be separated from each other. Splinter NewsLuna Malbroux discusses why many black individuals are abandoning Christianity for traditional African religions, declaring that patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy are still evident in Christian cultures. Others point to modern-day societal impacts, such as American pastor Scott Lively’s influence on Ugandan laws prohibiting same-sex love.

Serious Questions and Important Lessons

In the past, the desire to Christianize native peoples led to staggering atrocities and abuses. Thanks to Christian missions’ linked history with colonial occupation, people are questioning whether missionary work has an appropriate place in our modern world. If nothing else, John Allen Chau’s death can impart important lessons about discretion, respect, and understanding the difference between sharing one’s faith and significantly transforming or obliterating other cultures.

 

The Christian and Pagan Roots of Halloween
Halloween blends Pagan and Christian traditions.

Halloween blends Pagan and Christian traditions.

Halloween is a billion-dollar industry in Canada, ranking only second behind Christmas among profitable holidays. As with many modern holidays, it appears to be a mingling of Christian religious observances and Celtic pre-Christian traditions originating in an older festival known as Samhain. So where does Samhain end and Halloween begin? Keep a dish of sweet treats nearby to nosh on as you read through the mysteries behind this popular spooky celebration.

Is Halloween a Celtic Import?

The Canadian Encyclopedia reveals that Halloween’s most popular traditions came to North America sometime in the 1800s. The first documented instance in Canada of costume wearing occurred in Vancouver in 1898, while “trick or treat” was first recorded in Alberta in 1927. The Canadian Encyclopedia’s entry further suggests that these customs likely migrated here with Irish and Scottish immigrants. South of the border, the United States Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center appears to back up the assertion that Halloween came to us from Celtic Europe, with its observance rooted in older Samhain practices.

Samhain: A Time for Harvests and Spirits

The modern Irish term “Samhain” (pronounced “SOW-in”) refers to end-of-harvest revelries. It’s hard to ascertain when ancient Celts began marking the end of autumn, but the oldest documented example appears in Irish literature from around the 10th century C.E. Prior to that, Irish mythology mostly existed as spoken word traditions. Samhain’s festivities were held starting at sundown on October 31 and ending at dusk on November 1, a date that originally lined up with the Celts’ New Year. It’s also one of the four major seasonal holidays, along with Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh, on the ancient Celtic calendar.

Besides heralding the arrival of the cold season, these pre-Christian Celtic peoples believed that the barrier between the land of the living and the realm of the dead thinned at Samhain, allowing the souls of the dead to enter the waking world. Bonfires were lit to honor them and encourage their return to the Otherworld, a vast supernatural plane in which fairies, demons, deities and departed souls dwelled. Because these beings were thought to wander around on Samhain, offerings of food and drink were left out so that they’d leave the living alone.

Christianity and All Hallows’ Eve

Multiple sources have pointed to Catholicism’s adoption of pagan holidays into its own liturgical calendar. For instance, the December 25 date of Christmas also coincides with older celebrations of Saturnalia in ancient Rome and mid-winter celebrations across the rest of Europe. The American Folklore Center remarks that Pope Gregory I actively sought to absorb older customs and celebrations from non-Christian cultures in hopes of converting more people.

As Church leaders demonized native Celtic beliefs and condemned their Druids as devil worshippers, the All Saints feast was also moved to November 1. The day before became known as All Hallows’ Eve, yet the association of October 31 and November 1 with the mythology of Samhain never completely faded. Older Celtic practices of playing pranks, wearing disguises to confuse the dead and leaving out treats to mollify malicious spirits continued. 

Modern-Day Celebrations in Canada

While some fundamentalist Christians condemn Halloween as evil, the Canadian Encyclopedia disclosed that 68 percent of Canadians participate in its festivities every year. Followers of Celtic Neopagan spiritual paths might mark the day with bonfires, magical and ritualistic celebrations, and gatherings with friends and family. Moreover, the people who buy candies, dress up for trick or treat and throw Halloween parties come from many different faiths. With pagan and Christian contributions to the modern holiday and the childlike wonder and fun it can bring, there’s little surprise as to why it remains popular with Canadians in the 21st century.

 

How Catholicism Shaped Canadian History
The Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping Canada's culture and history.

The Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping Canada’s culture and history.

Like other nations in the Americas that began as former European colonies, Canada’s history has been largely defined by exploration and conquest, along with the establishment of religious missionaries. The last National Household Survey revealed that Catholics make up 38.7 percent of Canada’s population, a testament to the legacy of Catholicism in our country. Indeed, the Catholic faith has played a large role in shaping its culture and history.

Did It Begin With John Cabot’s Arrival?

Chronicles of America disclosed that Venetian explorer John Cabot, better known to some as Giovanni Caboto, landed in northeastern Canada in 1497. Depending on who you ask, Cabot’s ship landed in either Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland, Labrador or even the northeastern part of the United States. In either case, his Biography entry reveals that he claimed the territory for King Henry VII of England. Some sources insist that he also raised banners for his home nation of Venice and for the Pope, but some of Cabot’s story has been lost to history and remains in the domain of speculation today.

Samuel de Champlain and French Catholic Settlement 

French navigator and geographer Samuel de Champlain left his own mark on Canadian history as the first to make an accurate map of its eastern coastline. In 1608, he established a Catholic colony that eventually became our modern-day Quebec City. A few years later, he founded a fur trading post and Catholic colony on the Island of Montreal. Known as “the Father of New France,” he spent his time in Canada creating trading opportunities, charting new areas, and furthering relations with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The Canadian Encyclopedia explains that several Catholic orders came to Canada later in the 1600s, including Franciscans and Jesuits. While the French Canadian Catholic Church’s focus was first on evangelizing Indigenous peoples, it soon had to turn its attention to the growing population of French settlers. With the establishment of parishes and other institutions, the first diocese was formed in Quebec in 1674, and Catholicism had firmly established itself in the region.

British Impacts on Canadian Catholicism

During the same period in which French Canada was developing as a Catholic territory, British Catholics were creating their own presence in Newfoundland. In 1620, George Calvert established the Avalon colony, in which a Catholic ministry was founded by two priests. As part of Avalon’s first charter, Calvert included the concept of religious tolerance to allow all residents, including Catholics, to practice their faiths freely.

However, British influence would not fully play out until the Seven Years’ War and French Canada’s conquest. The Canadian Encyclopedia mentions the 1763 Treaty of Paris, which converted New France over to British rule. The years that followed proved to be somewhat contentious for both French Canadian Catholics and their new British Protestant neighbors. French Catholics worried about conversion attempts from English Protestants, but the right to openly practice their religion was included in the terms of surrender. These liberties were further secured in the Quebec Act of 1774.

Irish Immigration Adds Further Complexities

Irish Catholics began migrating to Canada in the second half of the 17th century. This would set the stage for the later battle over French-language schools in the nation. Siding with Canadian Protestants, Irish Catholics opposed the use of French in public educational institutions, while French Catholics remained staunchly in favor of it. This heated debate led to legislation such as Ontario’s Regulation 17. As TVO revealed, it was enforced until 1927 and repealed in 1944. Moreover, full public funding to French-language schools was not instituted until 1968.

Catholicism’s Legacy in Canada

From initial settlement, to questions of religious freedom, to a battle between cultures, the history of Catholicism in Canada is a long and complex one. Our nation’s religious makeup, the monuments left behind by earlier settlers and even modern public policies all display evidence of its legacy.

 

A Religious Tour of Calgary
Having been built in 1883, St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary is one of the oldest churches in Canada.

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary is a fantastic place to start your religious tour.

If you’ve seen the movies “Doctor Zhivago,” “Unforgiven,” or “The Revenant,” you have seen the landscape of Calgary. Most people are familiar with the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day rodeo and exhibition, or one of the many other festivals in the city. It’s a cultural mecca, home to ethnic restaurants, venues and museums.

Calgary may not be recognizable for its contribution to the religious fiber of the nation, but it has some beautiful churches that are part of the history of the city. Here are some of the best places to explore this heritage.

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The foundations for St. Mary’s were laid in 1887 and the building was completed in 1889, but the church began in 1873 when Father Constantine Scollen founded the first mission in southern Alberta. The Resurrection Glass Panel is a stunning piece of stained glass art.

Central United Church

The original building was dedicated in 1905 and was decorated in antique wood and walnut while he walls were made of sandstone from local quarries. Just 11 years later, the interior was destroyed by a boiler fire and would be refurbished. The church then reopened in 1917. At one time, this congregation had about 3,500 members, the largest congregation in the United Church of Canada, but the growth declined in the 1960s.

Lantern Community Church

This church has a lot of history. It’s over 100 years old, with a majestic pipe organ and what might be the best acoustics in the community. It’s home to many more events than just Sunday service. The most interesting aspect of this congregation is that one Sunday each month, instead of holding service, they go out into the community and do things for their neighbors.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church

This Catholic church is much newer than most, built in the late 20th century. It is more modern, but still a beautiful building. The church is currently undergoing renovations, which indicates the congregations plans to be here a long time.

St. Bonaventure Church

This Roman Catholic Church has been here for many years, and it hosts beautiful windows and statues that are examples of the connections between art and religion.

Knox United Church

Know Presbyterian Church started out when Reverend James Robertson preached in the local saloon. The men decided Robertson needed a better place to worship, and the church found its place in the town. At one time, the congregation shared a tent with the Methodists. Knox has a Casavant organ and a strong musical program. It hosts many musical events open to the public.

Calgary Alberta Temple

This stunning building is the third temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built in Alberta and dedicated two years later. Group tours are available by appointment, but you should at least visit the outside of this church to experience its magnitude.

St. Thomas More Parish

Another newer parish in the community, this church held its initial meeting in 1979. The new church building was completed in 1985, with Bishop Paul O’Byrne blessing the church at its opening mass in October. The stained glass windows are more modern, which allows you to see how art has changed through the years.

Explore Calgary Through Its Churches

While driving through Calgary, take a look at some of the churches and how they are designed and built. It’s a great way to examine how the churches have contributed to the community and will continue to add value to the city.

Lent – A Season of Fasting
Lent is a time for religious people to give something up for their religion for a set amount of time.

During Lent, religious artifacts, such as this crucifix, will be covered for the entire duration of the fast.

One common thread between most Christian religions is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ, or Easter. The weeks leading up to Easter are often used as a time of remembrance of Christ’s ministry and what he went through before his death. In Christianity, the season of Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Because the date of Easter is based on a lunar, rather than solar, calendar, the beginning of Lent changes each year. Traditionally, the first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday, which in 2017 falls on March 1.

Traditions of Lent

On Ash Wednesday, Christians attend a worship service in which the minister or priest makes the sign of a cross with ashes on the forehead of the worshipper. This symbolizes the sinfulness before God and human mortality. In the Bible, in both Hebrews and Numbers, the ashes of a red heifer would sanctify the ceremonially unclean. Ashes were thought to be purifying.

Human sorrow is represented by ashes. In the book of Esther, the Jews “lay in sackcloth and ashes” as a way of mourning the edict of the King that allowed for the destruction of the Jews. Job used dust and ashes as a symbol of repentance.

Fasting is one of the most common ways that Lent is observed. In older times, the tradition would be to have one full meal per day, with smaller meals allowed. The idea was that a person should have enough food to sustain strength, but never enough to feel full. Each community would have their own traditions, but generally, animal products were forbidden. Fish and fowl might be allowed on Fridays.

On Sundays, the fast would be suspended, but during Lent, Christians would refrain from saying “Alleluia” or the “Gloria in excelsis Deo” rite. These rituals were associated with joy. Because Lent was a time of sorrow, the words would be replaced with another phrase or simply omitted during the season.

During Lent the religious objects such as the cross, statues and pictures might be veiled for the entire 40 days. However, Anglican and Methodist churches traditionally only cover the objects on Good Friday. In more progressive churches, the liturgy of Lent might not be observed at all. Instead, the emphasis is on Easter Sunday, rather than penitence.

Fasting for Social Change

One current trend seen around Lent is that of a positive fast. People don’t just give up food or pleasure, but instead contribute to environmental stewardship. At Greenanglicans.org, people are remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness by doing one thing every day to be more environmentally conscious. For example, have dinner by candlelight and then talk and play games together.

Charisma House, a Christian publisher, is suggesting a 10-day word fast from complaining, criticism, sarcasm and gossip. According to Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The study asks you to watch what you say for just 10 days, to help you change a pattern of discouragement and negativity.

Another interesting concept is taking on atheism for Lent. For 40 days, a Christian examines literature that speaks to who God is and his or her beliefs in God. It’s a time to examine ideological structures of religion.

You do not have to honor Lent to celebrate Easter, but respect those who do. It’s a Christian tradition that means a lot to those who do partake in the season.

 

Celebrating Mardi Gras in Canada
Mardi Gras is celebrated all over the world.

Mardi Gras is a time of celebration just before lent.

February 28 is Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Carnival and/or Mardi Gras, depending on your culture and traditions. Mardi Gras is the last day for parties before the time of Lent. Lent is when many Christians fast before the Easter holiday. You don’t have to celebrate Easter to enjoy Mardi Gras, but knowing why it’s celebrated can help you understand the traditions.

What Is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which is based on the date of Easter. This means that the date generally changes from year to year. In 2017, it’s February 28. Next year, the date is February 13. In Canada, it’s not a statutory holiday, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find celebrations here in the country.

During Lent, Christians give up many indulgences, such as meat, alcohol and rich foods. Shrove Tuesday began as a way of using up the food in the household that might be forbidden during Lent. Some believe that Pancake Tuesday was a pagan holiday. Christians are reported to have made pancakes because the recipe would use up eggs, lard or butter, sugar and milk, foods that might be limited through Lent.

Although Lent probably originated in Europe, people around the world now celebrate Mardi Gras, Carnival or Shrove Tuesday with huge festivals. Masquerades and costumes are popular, but so are large amounts of alcohol, many rich foods, not only pancakes and pastries.

At one time, Mardi Gras was a more sedate celebration. Today, it is often considered the single person’s holiday in late Winter, as opposed to Valentine’s Day, which is more couple-centric. 

Where to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Since 1445, Olney in Buckinghamshire has held a pancake race in which women (although men can participate) carry a frypan and toss a pancake in it while racing 415 yards (one-quarter of a kilometer). The pancake must be in the pan when crossing the finish line, and the contestants must be tossing it as they cross the finish. Typically, these women also dress as housewives, wearing an apron and a scarf. Following the race, everyone goes to the church for a service.

Rio, New Orleans, Trinidad and Tobago and Sydney, Australia are great places to go to enjoy huge parties and crowds for Mardi Gras. Not only is this a time to eat indulgently, it’s also a time to be free of inhibitions. It’s an “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” attitude. In New Orleans, it’s traditional to accumulate beads. Tourists think the best way to get beads is to flash someone, but really, locals prefer you just shout, “throw me something, mister!“ at the people on the floats. Parents of children who come out for the parade will thank you for not flashing yourself for their kids to see.

Places in Canada to Celebrate Mardi Gras

Locally, the most popular place for Mardi Gras celebrations is in Quebec City, but this year’s Carnaval de Quebec was from January 27 through February 12, making it much earlier than Mardi Gras. Ottawa’s Winterlude also misses it this year, as it is from February 3 through 20. You may just have to look for ones in your neighborhood or create your own traditions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week
World Interfaith Harmony Week is about peace between religions.

World Interfaith Harmony Week is about bringing different religions together.

Seven years ago, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a week for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in dialogue based on common elements of their religions. The King made this proposal to the United Nations, and it only took one month to be unanimously adopted by the organization. The first week in February is now observed as World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Common Elements in Monotheistic Religions

Muslims, Jews and Christians have two commandments that are common in each religion:

  • Love of God
  • Love of the Neighbor

The idea is that these two commandments are at the heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Looking at these two philosophies, we can find solid theological ground without compromising the tenets of our own faith.

Leaders came together and published “A Common Word” (ACW) as a way to bring religions together. “ACW is a document which uses religion as the solution to the problems of inter-religious tensions. By basing itself on solid theological grounds in both religions ACW has demonstrated to Christians and Muslims that they have a certain common ground (despite irreducible theological differences) and that both religions require them to have relations based on love not on hatred.”

2017 Events Around the World

Countries around the globe plan events to bring people together to find world peace. According to worldinterfaithharmonyweek.com, in 2017, there are currently 472 events on the calendar. While Western countries plan activities smaller countries have activities listed on the calendar.

King Abdullah believed that society could use infrastructure to bring harmony and peace between individuals, thus leading to peace between countries. Although we still have a lot of work to do, it is evident that more people want to see respect and tolerance between religions, governments and communities.

2017 Theme

The theme for 2017 is “The Gift of Love”. Although he is a direct descendent of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the King is funding the restoration of Christ’s Tomb in the Church of Holy Sepulchre. His gift is thought to be worth about $4 million dollars. King Abdullah believes in the true message of Islam, but he also promotes interfaith dialogue. He has proven his worthiness as custodian of both Muslim and Christian holy sites through his words, deeds and actions. He truly has given the world a gift of love by respecting a faith not his own.

Take Part in World Interfaith Harmony Week

World Interfaith Harmony Week for all the world’s religions. While religions have common ground, it’s up to us to engage in dialogue and find that common ground to bring us together.

The United Nations has many declarations for world peace, cultural diversity and tolerance. World Interfaith Harmony Week is just one more time that is dedicated to finding common ground between faiths. We may not be able to change the entire world by being friendly, but we can change our community by encouraging diversity and tolerance.

Holiday Carols for the Season
Nothing can get you into the holiday spirit quite like holiday carols.

Holiday Carols are a great way to spread the holiday spirit and really get people in the Christmas mood.

Traditionally, a holiday carol is a religious song of joy linked to a particular season. Most people associate carols with Christmas. Many of the most popular carols sung in churches were written in the Victorian age.

 

 

 

Holiday Carols for Caroling

  • “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a fairly recent song made popular by Bing Crosby. It was actually written as a plea for peace during the Cuban missile crisis, but the writer, Noël Regney, was inspired to add the Christmas lyrics.
  • “Here We Come A-wassailing” is from the English tradition of orphans and beggars dancing and singing in the streets hoping to get treats and drinks from the homes of the gentry during the Christmas season.
  • “Mary, Did You Know?” debuted in 1991 and has become a very popular Christmas song.
  • “O Holy Night” was added to the list of Christmas carols by French poet Placide Cappeau. Adolphe Adam, a French composer, wrote the music. Opera singer Emily Laurey was the first to sing the tune, but there are many current renditions of this familiar song that reflects on the birth of Jesus.
  • “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” was given to us by Charles Wesley, but George Whitefield gave us the adaptation we’re more familiar with today. Felix Mendelssohn’s music was adapted by an English composer to fit the words and phrasing.
  • “The Little Drummer Boy” might have been made popular by the 1968 television special, but it was actually recorded by the Austrian Trapp Family Singers in 1951. “The Little Drummer Boy” is a carol from Czechoslovakia, which has been recorded multiple times by many popular singers.
  • “Joy to the World” is said to be the most-published Christmas carol in North America. Isaac Watts wrote the lyrics, basing them on Psalm 98. The music is thought to be based on the “Messiah” oratorio by George Frideric Handel, but there is no actual evidence to support this.

Other Holiday Staples

 

  • “What Child Is This?” is more popular in North America than in its birthplace of England. The tune is from a traditional English folk song, “Greensleeves.” William Chatterton Dix wrote the lyrics for the Christmas carol, which has been recorded by many popular artists for special Christmas albums.
  • “Mary, Did You Know?” debuted in 1991 and has become a very popular Christmas song. Michael English was the first to record it, but Clay Aiken, Cee Lo Green and Pentatonix have all created their own version of the song.
  • “O Holy Night” was added to the list of Christmas carols by French poet Placide Cappeau. Adolphe Adam, a French composer, wrote the music. Opera singer Emily Laurey was the first to sing the tune, but there are many current renditions of this familiar song that reflects on the birth of Jesus.
  • “We Three Kings of Orient Are” was written in the mid-19th century by an American clergyman who served in the Episcopal Church. It’s actually about an event that occurred after the birth of Christ, but it remains a popular Christmas song.
  • “Angels from the Realms of Glory” was written by Scottish poet James Montgomery and first published in 1816. The music was added later, with English and American versions to different tunes.
  • “O Little Town of Bethlehem” was penned by Phillips Brooks, a priest in the Episcopal Church. His organist would add the music. Neither believed that the hymn would outlive the first performance during the 1868 Christmas season, but it’s one of the most popular Christmas carols today.

Expand Your Caroling Horizon

This year, as you sing the Christmas music of your faith, think about the message in the words. Remember that the season is about family and friends, Christ’s birth and goodwill toward all. Be kind toward each other and consider that not everyone celebrates Christmas as you know it. “Happy Holidays” is a greeting that encompasses many different faiths. Use it when in doubt.

Wedding Traditions From Around The World
Certain wedding traditions have been practiced for hundreds of years.

There are all kinds of traditions that continue through the world. Many have similarities while others can be vastly different.

If you’re trying to plan a unique ceremony for your special day, check out some of these special wedding traditions from around the world.

 

 

 

Wedding Traditions from other Cultures

  • Congo – Brides and grooms aren’t allowed to smile on their wedding day. When they do, it shows that they aren’t serious about the marriage.
  • China – The bride travels to the groom’s home in a decorated sedan chair. Attendants take care of the bride on the journey by holding parasols to shield her from the elements. They throw rice at the chair as a sign of prosperity and health. Female bridesmaids put the groom through a series of tests for him to prove his worthiness of the bride. He must give them envelopes of money before they’ll allow him to have their friend.
  • Fiji – The potential bridegroom must present his father with a whale’s tooth when he asks for her hand in marriage.
  • Jamaica – The bride is paraded through the streets. If the villagers go home, it means she didn’t look her best. She must go home and spruce herself up for another go.

Some Other Cultures Practices

  • Guatemala – The groom’s parents host the reception party. The groom’s mother breaks a ceramic bell filled with grains to give the couple prosperity.
  • Germany – The guests break porcelain dishes in front of the new home. The bride and groom are to clean these dishes up together as a demonstration of working together to overcome anything.
  • Scotland – Gretna Green is the place to elope. In medieval times, Gretna Green would marry young couples who did not always have parental permission.
  • Kenya – The bride’s father spits on her as she leaves the reception. It’s thought to preempt fate by not seeming too supportive of the couple.
  • Greece – The best man (or groom’s best friend) shaves the groom before the wedding. The new mother-in-law feeds him honey and almonds.
  • Japan – A Shinto bride wears white from head to toe. The head covering is thought to hide the horns of jealousy toward her new mother-in-law. The white symbolizes her maidenhood.
  • Norway – The traditional cake is called kransekake. It’s a tower of almond cake rings stacked on top of each other. The center is often filled with a wine bottle. The bride may wear a gold and silver crown with small trinkets as part of her wedding finery. As she moves, the trinkets jingle, which scares off the evil spirits.
  • Russia – Couples partake of a sweetbread called karavaya which is decorated with grains of wheat for fertility. Whoever takes the largest bite without using their hands is thought to be the head of the family.

As you go through this list, you might notice that many of the wedding traditions are similar to customs we have here. It just shows that we’re more alike than we think.

Historical Churches in Montreal
Historical churches are riddled throughout Montreal.

Notre Dame Basilica Montreal is one of the many historical churches to visit while in Montreal.

Montreal is home to a number of beautiful historical churches. Although it might not be the city you think of when you consider religious history in Canada, it is home to four Roman Catholic basilicas. These churches stand out as a centre of liturgy in the church’s tradition. Only 1,580 churches around the world have been designated a basilica. Montreal houses a number of other stunning religious buildings. Here are seven churches that you should take time to visit and experience, even if you don’t belong to the faith.

 

Different Historical Churches in Montreal

  1. Church of La Visitation-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie – Although this church is not the oldest church in the city, it does have the oldest original structure and interior. It was finished in 1752, but the stained glass windows were not added until 1893. This structure does not have the exterior presence that some of the basilicas have, but the interior is absolutely breathtaking.
  2. Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel – Another very old church founded in 1655. The structure was rebuilt in the late 18th century on the ruins of another church. There’s a museum attached to the church where visitors can learn more about the church history and understand the importance of the altar painting.
  3. Saint Patrick’s Basilica – It took four years to construct this church, and it’s been preserved quite well since its completion in 1847. Saint Patrick’s claim is that it is the oldest English-speaking Roman Catholic church in the city. It houses more than 150 oil paintings. You might want to count the shamrocks or fleur-de-lis symbols.
  4. Church of Saint-Pierre-Apotre – Built in the mid-19th century, this church has also preserved its original interior. The only major change in the original was the installation of stained glass windows about 30 years after it was built. Make sure to visit the Chapel of Hope, which has been dedicated to the victims of AIDS.
  5. Saint Joseph’s Oratory – The Oratory is a national shrine and is Canada’s largest church. The architectural style is Renaissance. Stroll through the monumental walkway any season, but spring and summer are the best times to visit if you enjoy beautiful gardens. Plan to spend some time in the art museum, too.
  6. Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal – If you can’t make it to Paris to see the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral, visit this basilica in this local city. The pipe organ and wood sculptures make this church stand out as one of the city’s top attractions. This structure dates back almost 200 years to 1824.
  7. Church of Saint Genevieve – This church was founded in 1732. The structure wasn’t built until 1844, and it took another 20 years to finish the interior, which has been preserved for all to enjoy the beautiful white and gold colours. It’s a stunning monument that you shouldn’t miss.

Churches are vital to every community. The history of these churches tells a story about the people that helps us more deeply understand the city. Take some time to tour religious buildings and find out more about the heritage of your neighbors.