Taboo with religious gift?
December 21, 2007 8:15 AM   Subscribe

I know very little about Christian gifts. Is there any taboo about getting my Catholic girlfriend a cross necklace?

I was raised as Mormon, so I know general Christian themes. Mormons don't use traditional Christian symbolism, like crosses, in their worship though.

My girlfriend wore a cross until a few weeks ago, when the chain broke and she lost the cross pendant. I'd like to get her a replacement one as a gift. She's from Italy and Catholic. I know a lot of different kinds of Christians wear crosses, but are there any specific taboos associated with this? Can I get the wrong 'type' of cross for a Catholic?

The one she had previously was a simple silver one. Here's a little picture of it. It'd be great if I could find something similar to that one as well, so any websites to check would be neat!
posted by Nerro to Religion & Philosophy (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only taboo I know about is that you're not supposed to wear a rosary as a necklace. Any other kind of cross necklace should be fine...although buying her a religious gift like that seems strange to me if you don't share her faith.
posted by footnote at 8:20 AM on December 21, 2007

I'm not a Catholic, though I did go to Catholic schools for much of my early life. I don't think there's a particular wrong type you could get. Catholics use more crucifixes than other denominations, but a normal cross is ok too. I'm not sure about the crosses that are equal length on all four parts, but any standard cross or crucifix should be safe.
posted by chndrcks at 8:23 AM on December 21, 2007

sometimes things like that are given as part of first communion celebration, or from a godparent or other relative.

some people wear crosses as trinkets, some people wear them because they find true symbolism in them. if she's the latter, it may not be the best gift from someone who isn't Catholic.
posted by uaudio at 8:24 AM on December 21, 2007

Don't get a crucifix (w/ Jesus), a Greek cross (like a plus sign), or an upside-down cross, and you'll be fine, if she had a cross before.
posted by tmcw at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2007

Lapsed Catholic here. That image is, to be precise, a crucifix rather than a cross. Catholics will wear crucifixes or plain crosses, but most Protestants will shudder and will wear only a plain cross. So if you want to get her either a cross or a crucifix, she should be fine, but I'm guessing that a crucifix would be a better choice since that is what she chose to wear in the first place.

Why not ask her or someone in your family if it's OK to get her a replacement? The original may have been a piece she was very sentimental about and someone in her family may already be getting her another one.
posted by maudlin at 8:26 AM on December 21, 2007

your her family
posted by maudlin at 8:28 AM on December 21, 2007

Don't get a crucifix (w/ Jesus), a Greek cross (like a plus sign), or an upside-down cross, and you'll be fine, if she had a cross before.

As previously mentioned, some other denominations avoid crucifixes as a rule, but if she's a Catholic a crucifix is just fine.
posted by irregardless at 8:47 AM on December 21, 2007

Where do you plan to shop? I ask because in a lot of Catholic communities, there is a religious arts, book, and gift store that caters to Catholic needs. They carry saints' cards, rosaries, devotionals, and the like specifically for Catholics. IF there is one near you, pay them a visit. They may or may not have anything you like in their selection (though they will have many gift-appropriate crosses), but they will certainly be able to help you hone your ideas and show you some popular styles.

Some Catholics appreciate the crucifixes with Jesus on them, some don't. It's a matter of personal taste. If you're not sure where your gf falls on that question, better to replicate the Jesus status of the one she has now, which she presumably likes.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on December 21, 2007

Tmcw, why not get a crucifix? It's frequent for Catholics to wear them. Also, it's fine for Catholics to get religious gifts like this from non-catholics.

Going an extra step, you might have her priest bless it for her, just ask him after Mass on Sunday or call and then stop by the rectory, it takes about 10 seconds in the usual short form.

Even the upside down cross has a place in christian iconography as a symbol of St peter, but it probably wouldn't make a good gift unless your girlfriend is named "Petra" and likes explaining stuff to people.

I'd probably go with a plain crucifix (cross w/ body of Christ). You have more stylistic options for a woman, that's a matter of taste.

Many women wear a crucifix with a matching Miraculous Medal (revealed to St Catherine Laboure, you can google it), but it'd be hard to know w/o knowing your girlfriend (and her religious sensibilities) if that's something she'd like.

And seconding the bit about religious bookstores being a place to shop, but you could also just as easily get something appropriate at Wal-mart, a department store, or any jewler.
posted by Jahaza at 8:53 AM on December 21, 2007

James Avery is apparently one of the go-to stores for nice Christian jewelry. They have brick-and-mortar stores, though most of them are in Texas.

I grew up protestant-ish and it didn't seem to be at all bad to buy religious jewelry, particularly crosses and crucifixes, as long as you were fairly close to the recipient.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:16 AM on December 21, 2007

Glad Tidings
6700 Santa Rita Road Suite K
Pleasanton, CA 94566
925-847-9787 FAX:925-847-9767

(Not a recommendation per se, just a church store near your location.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:17 AM on December 21, 2007

ex Catholic schoolboy here: by all means no rosary, as pointed out above, but the cross is OK. a simple cross though (gold's OK), but no diamonds or other flashy stuff on it -- the keyword is, make it low-key, not something 50 Cent would wear, you know what I mean
posted by matteo at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2007

(and yes, I realise that the pope himself wears some crazy jewelry, but let's not get into that -- for laypeople, stick to a simple cross)
posted by matteo at 9:39 AM on December 21, 2007

The cross in the picture is a crucifix. I think perhaps buying her a non-crcifix cross could be taken as "toning down the Catholic".
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2007

Your girlfriend's previous cross was a crucifix, which is common for Catholics to wear, but, as mentioned upthread, would be the "wrong" kind of cross to get for most Protestants. (Not an issue for you.) As long as you stick to a simple crucifix similar to what she has, you'll be fine.

There are a lot of variations that would be "wrong," but these are going to be harder to find than a simple crucifix, so don't worry too much. Don't get a cross with an extra cross-piece at the top and a diagonal through the base -- that's an Orthodox cross. Don't get one with a circle at the intersection -- that's Celtic. Lots of pictures of crosses here if you're curious.

If you google sterling silver crucifix necklace, you'll get plenty of hits in many price ranges -- Amazon has a number of them. As for brick-and-mortar stores, you can check regular jewelry stores as well as religious stores.

However, while it's lovely that you wish to replace it, picking out a cross to wear as jewelry can be very personal. You may want to hint around to make sure that she doesn't have something VERY specific in mind for a replacement. (For instance, she may well want the cross to specifically be Italian jewelry, she may have very strong ideas about how the figure of Christ is represented, etc.)
posted by desuetude at 10:04 AM on December 21, 2007

I think it sounds like a lovely, thoughtful gift. Especially if you include some kind of beautiful, keepsake letter about some good (Christian) qualities she has - I'm thinking patience, or honesty, or empathy and some such, and how inspirational you find her, and you hope to grow together and so on.

If you live near any large shrine or cathedral, you may be able to find cross pendants there. Some may have been blessed in some way. I believe you can also take them to a local church and get them blessed. Even if not Christian, you may be able to explain it's a gift for a Christian who would appreciate it all the more.

I am a non-practicing Catholic, from a very, very Roman Catholic family.
posted by bunnycup at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2007

You actually can't buy a blessed crucifix, it has to be blessed after you buy it. It loses it's blessing in being sold. You may at some shrines be able to have it blessed right after you buy it, but the blessing has to come after.
posted by Jahaza at 10:50 AM on December 21, 2007

Hundreds of pre-blessed rosaries sold at the Vatican say otherwise...I mean.....
posted by bunnycup at 11:31 AM on December 21, 2007

Nthing the cross or crucifix is fine, but I'm confused by all the comments that the cross in the picture is a crucifix -- maybe the picture is just to small for me, but I don't see Jesus on that cross?
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2007

Maybe something a little distinctive, like a Jersusalem Cross?
posted by fvox13 at 12:44 PM on December 21, 2007

I'm a Catholic and either a cross or crucifix would be fine by me.
posted by drezdn at 6:16 PM on December 21, 2007

Follow-up from OP:
I decided to get her a cross. I bought a simple silver one from a local Christian store. She absolutely loved it and thought it was a fabulous present.

<3 the hive mind \m/ Thanks!
posted by Nerro at 7:26 AM on December 26, 2007

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