Holidays and Celebrations
Unitarian Universalism and First Church have special celebrations, each with its own history and tradition. Unitarian Universalism includes aspects of many of the world's religions. Holidays from various religions are celebrated together in Unitarian Universalist congregations. Most Unitarian Universalist congregations celebrate the Christian holidays Christmas and Easter, the Jewish holidays Passover and Yom Kippur, and the Pagan Winter Solstice, among other holidays.
In addition to these traditional religious holidays, many of our congregations also honor secular holidays including Earth Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, Mother's Day and Father's Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. While these are not traditionally spiritual holidays, Unitarian Universalism finds spiritual meaning and affinity with our Principles in the ideas behind these and other secular holidays.
Child Dedications: We have a service for infants and young children, including newly adopted children or children of families who have recently joined the church. This service is not required in our faith, but is done by the request of the parents. The parents bring the child to the front of the sanctuary at a time during a Sunday service, and the minister presides over the ceremony. The dedication ceremony is a celebration of the blessing of a new life, an expression of the parentsí hopes for their child and a call to the parents and the congregationís members to lead and nurture the childís spiritual life as it grows.
Water Ceremony: First used at a Unitarian Universalist worship service in the 1980s, we have our Water Ceremony once a year, at the beginning of the new church year in late August. Members bring to the service a small amount of water from a place that is special to them. During the appointed time in the service, people one by one pour their water together into a large bowl. As the water is added, the stories about these special waters are shared. The combined water is symbolic of our shared faith coming from many different sources. Each year, some of the water is saved and brought to the next year’s ceremony, linking the present to our past.
Pumpkin Carving: On the Sunday preceding Halloween, families gather in the Crane Fireside Room during Religious Education for Children time to carve or decorate pumpkins.
The Blessing of the Animals: In this service, animals of the world are honored, recognizing our long-held relationship to our animal friends through all of time. Participants may bring their animal companions with them to the service. If an animal friend cannot attend, a photo or some other meaningful item related to the animal friend sometimes substitutes.
Flower Communion: This service takes place in the spring, when flowers are in bloom. Members of the congregation bring a flower to the Sunday service, placing it in a shared vase. The flowers are blessed by the congregation during the ceremony, and the sermon usually reflects upon the flowers' symbolism. At the end of the service, each person brings home a flower other than the one that he or she brought. The Flower communion service was originally created in 1923 by Unitarian minister Norbert Capek, who founded the Unitarian Church in Czechoslovakia. The service was later brought to the United States by his wife, Maya. "The significance of the flower communion is that as no two flowers are alike, so no two people are alike, yet each has a contribution to make. Together the different flowers form a beautiful bouquet. Our common bouquet would not be the same without the unique addition of each individual flower, and thus it is with our church community: it would not be the same without each and every one of us. Thus this service is a statement of our community." - Reginald Zottoli
The Feast of All Good Children: At the end of each school year, as children are moving up to the next grade, our congregation helps them take this step by bringing un-iced sheet cakes for the children to unite into the Feast’s “Great Cake”. The children decorate the enormous cake, and then share it with the congregation, waiting on them at tables. Children, especially, but anyone who feels the urge to mark a change to a new part of their lives, jump over a symbolic ‘fire’ to signify the transition, supported by their friends and family.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service: On the evening of December 24th, members and friends, visiting family members, and newcomers gather together to enjoy singing carols and listening to the story of Christmas in an atmosphere of joy and celebration.
Coming of Age Ceremony: Coming of Age Ceremonies marking the transition from childhood to young adult, are as old as history. They have included vision quests, mentoring, and bar/bat mitzvahs, all to help youth learn about themselves and prepare for adulthood. At First Church, we mark this transition with a coming of age program, which generally includes four parts: pairing youth with adult mentors, discussions and retreats that emphasize self-awareness and confidence-building, service to the church and community, and a culminating affirmation ceremony.
Memorial Services: Services for loved ones who have died are usually very personal, private occasions. Because of this, each memorial service at First Church is developed by the family of the deceased with the presiding minister to specially honor the memory of that individual. Sometimes, the service includes a time for those present to remember the deceased with a story or anecdote. Hymn singing, special or instrumental music helps celebrate the honored life and comfort the friends and family.