Rites, Ritual & Ceremony

The Rituals of Judaism

Judaism is a rich tradition in which a complex set of rules govern the observation of rituals including what to eat: from the Passover Seder celebration to Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year; the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement,  to lighting the Sabbath candles on any given Friday evening at sundown. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has a unique collection of  objects of faith including Katubahs, or marriage contracts, Mezuzah cases which are protective ornaments displayed on the doors of Jewish homes, Sabbath candlesticks, Seder plates and Hannukah lamps. For a contemporary look into Jewish culture and traditions, Dora Holzhandler's paintings exude a strong sense of community.

DH98593 Passover Meal, 1997 (oil on canvas) by Dora Holzhandler (Contemporary Artist)/ Private Collection
DH98593 Passover Meal, 1997 (oil on canvas) by Dora Holzhandler (Contemporary Artist)/ Private Collection

XKH146777 The Prayer, 1865 (oil on panel) by Leon Jean Gerome/ Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany
XKH146777 The Prayer, 1865 (oil on panel) by Leon Jean Gerome/ Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany

The Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam are the practices essential to every Muslim. The first is Shahadah, or a profession of faith. Salat is the second, which requires Muslims to pray five times daily facing the direction of Mecca. The third pillar is Zakat, or the giving of alms. Ritual fasting, or Sawm, is the fourth and is obligatory during the month of Ramadan. The fifth pillar of Islam is the Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca that every able-bodied Muslim must do at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrim must walk around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, seven times which is seen as a symbolic stoning of the Devil.

Christian Rites of Passage

Although there are thousands of different Christian denominations, each with their own set of rites and rituals, there are some commonalities between them. Most believers will be baptized in the faith, either as an infant, or as an adult and the celebration of marriage and funerals are common rites of passage. The Roman Catholic denomination considers these special rites to be sacraments, of which there are seven: Baptism, Communion (receiving the Eucharist), Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination (priesthood), Reconciliation (or the act of confession) and Anointing of the Sick, also referred to as Last Rites or Extreme Unction.

ALI169546 The Baptism of Christ, detail, 1303-05 (fresco) by Giotto di Bondone from the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy/ Alinari
ALI169546 The Baptism of Christ, detail, 1303-05 (fresco) by Giotto di Bondone from the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy/ Alinari


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