What are the main rites of passage in Christianity?
- How do you celebrate special times or 'milestones'?
- What are the milestones that you and your family celebrate?
- Do you celebrate birthdays?
- Have you ever been to a wedding?
- What special things happened there?
Christians are no different; they have special times and events in their lives.
This resource will show you what these are, and how they are celebrated. These events are known as 'rites of passage' and are very important to all Christians.
We often call the special times in a person life 'Milestones.' Milestones can include getting married or having a baby. They can also include being baptised or going on a pilgrimage. What are the milestones that you and your family celebrate? Have you ever been to a wedding? What special things happened there? Have you or anyone you know ever been on a pilgrimage? Who went? Where did they go? What was it like? Here we will look at some of the milestones in a Christian's life and the symbols that are used during them
When a baby is born some Christian families will take the baby to be baptised. During the baptism the parents and the god parents will make promises to bring the baby up in a Christian family. The baby will also have water sprinkled on its head and the sign of a cross made on its forehead. This is a symbol that the baby belongs to the world wide Christian family.
There are other Christian families who do not have their babies baptised but have a dedication service instead. This church service is a way of saying thank you for the child but it is also a symbol that the parents want the child to grow up to follow God's rules and teachings.
Some people choose to be baptised when they older - this is called believer's baptism. Often during believer's baptism there will be a time for the person to say why they want to be baptised. They will then be 'dunked' completely under the water. The water is a symbol that God has forgiven all they have done wrong and they are starting a new life as a Christian.
Just like believer's baptism, Confirmation is another way of someone showing that they have become a Christian. It is a time when a person will confirm (or reinforce) the promises that their parents made at their baptism. As part of the service the person will be given a candle - a symbol of Jesus as the light of the world.
For some Christians another important milestone is the first time that they take communion. Just before Jesus died he had a meal with his closest friends. When they were eating the meal Jesus took some bread and some wine and told his friends that this was a way to remember what would happen on the cross. The bread was used as a symbol of his body and the wine was a symbol of his blood. Christians still share bread and wine together and remember how Jesus died on the cross.
A pilgrimage is a special journey to an important place. The place is usually chosen because it is where someone special lived or something special happened there. For thousands of years Christians have gone on pilgrimages. Sometimes this is in this country or other times it can be to special places abroad like Bethlehem where Jesus was born. Often when a person has finished a pilgrimage they will be given a shell as a symbol of what they have just done.
Another milestone in a person's life can be marriage. When Christians get married it is often in a church and it is a time of great celebration. As part of the service the bride and the groom will make promises to each other and to God. The couple will also swap rings. The ring is a symbol of God's love that never ends.
A sad fact of life is that eventually everyone has to die. A Christian funeral will often be a time of sadness but also of thanksgiving and joy. It is a time to say thanks to God for the life of the person that has died and also to be joyful because Christians believe that death is not the end but that life continues after death in heaven.