woman with flowers by Tripty Tamang Pakhrin

Our family is not religious, but I love many of the traditions I see our friends and neighbors celebrate. Here, eight Cup of Jo readers share the religious rituals that mean a lot to them (and I’d love to hear yours)…

“I’m Jewish, and every Friday we celebrate Shabbat. At sunset, my wife and I gather our daughters, and we recite blessings, light candles, eat challah bread, and drink grape juice. It’s a simple ritual, conducted with simple objects, right in your own home. Shabbat is the day of rest. And you mark this day by putting away all the clutter of everyday life, and focusing on things that are good to drink, things that are good to eat, and the people you love.” — Josh

“My favorite part about Catholicism is Ash Wednesday, when a person marks your forehead with ashes, while saying, ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Every year, my eyes well up. I work as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse and have been with many children as they’ve died. Remembering we are all dust, and will return to dust, is oddly comforting and beautiful.” — Emily

“In Buddhism, there’s a phrase: ‘Just this.’ I actually got it tattooed on my fingers, facing me, so I am always aware. The idea is that there is no more and no less than just this moment, without expectation. It comes from the teachings of a wonderful roshi named Charlotte Joko Beck. Another is a poem by Izumi Shikibu: ‘Although the wind / blows terribly here, / the moonlight also leaks / between the roof planks / of this ruined house.’ In Buddhist terms, nirvana and samsara are entwined — that is, enlightenment and suffering are one and the same.” — JDS

“My wife is heavily into daily Hindu rituals and prayers. I have nothing against that, but to me I would rather experience my religion by going to the homeless shelter and spending my Sunday afternoon cooking a meal. If I can help someone today, that’s my goal. After the pandemic began, when we couldn’t go into the shelter, I tried to organize funds, so I could deliver pizzas there every Sunday. The point is, the needs don’t go away. I’m no genius, I’m no philosopher, but I try to do what is right.” — Sasi

“Growing up, my family went to Quaker Meeting every Sunday, but after college, I lost touch with it. Last year when we went into quarantine, I moved home with my parents and started witnessing a very sweet thing: Zoom Quaker Meeting. Quaker worship is typically an hour of silence. Sometimes people share messages, other times it’s totally quiet (my dad’s favorite kind). On Zoom, it’s also… silent. At first I cringed — how awkward! My whole existence in quarantine had been trying to avoid awkward Zoom silences, but remote Quaker Meeting changed this. Thirty people on Zoom, sitting in silence, eyes shut, hearts open, listening to each other. It has brought religion back into my life in a way I never anticipated.” — Shannon

“I am very proudly and very visibly Muslim (thanks to the hijab on my head!). One of my favorite things about my religion is that we are obligated to stop what we are doing five times a day and dedicate a few minutes to prayer. Sure, when I was younger, I was like, ‘What?!? You mean I have to pray five times a day?!’ But now it is so ingrained in my daily routine that I can’t imagine life without it.” — Nazeefah

“In the Mormon community, Monday night is considered ‘family night.’ Each family keeps that evening open and does something fun together. (You also get a treat!) We used to go bowling, biking or to a museum. When the kids got older and started going out more often with friends, family night changed to a night in — like a movie night or game night.” — Heather

“In Jainism, there are eight days a year when you fast, pray and meditate. On the eighth day, everyone gets together for a three-hour prayer, during which you fold your hands and bow your head in apology multiple times; you are asking for forgiveness of all living beings for anything you may have done knowingly or unknowingly to hurt them. Afterward, you ask for forgiveness from your entire social circle; of course, these days it’s over text. To me, it’s so important as a human to acknowledge that we are not perfect; we all make mistakes and sometimes all we can do is hope to be forgiven.” — Minati

Are you religious? Are there rituals you like? We stand with our Jewish readers during the recent surge in anti-Semitic sentiment.

P.S. The trick of life, and how do you think about death?

(Photo by Tripty Tamang Pakhrin/Stocksy.)