How Shriners and Freemasons Relate
The Shrine has often been called the “playground of Freemasonry.” Before a man can become a Shriner, he must become a Freemason. In fact, if you look carefully at the full name — Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine — you can rearrange the letters A.A.O.N.M.S. and spell “A MASON.”
All Shriners are Freemasons, but not all Freemasons become Shriners. The Shrine isn’t a Masonic organization — it doesn’t confer any degree that continues or enlarges on the Masonic degrees. It’s simply an organization that requires Masonic lodge membership as a prerequisite for joining.
From the beginning, the Shrine was intentionally designed to be fun — actually, even a bit juvenile. Freemasons looking for deep, intellectual symbolism and knowledge won’t find it in the Shrine. What they will find is old-fashioned, back-slapping, glass-raising, cigar-puffing, high-volume socializing. Their history is filled with tales of the antics of Shriners, especially when collected together at their annual conventions.
Temples: Shrine temples (or centers, as more of them are referred to these days) are often very large, and only a few exist in any given state. So, each temple draws on dozens or even hundreds of Masonic lodges for their membership. Shrine temples often have thousands of members.
The Shrine built its own dedicated buildings during prosperous times, and they were generally designed with Middle Eastern architectural details. In keeping with the functions of the Shrine, they often have large auditoriums, plus social rooms, dance halls, restaurants, and bars.The Al Malaikah Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was built in 1926. With 6,300 seats, it’s the largest theater in the world.
Units: Most Shrine Temples are divided up into clubs or units. Clowns, motorcycle groups, horse patrols, marching bands, railroad clubs, bagpipers, classic-car owners — the variety is endless. Because the Shrine is intended to be more socially involving, members are encouraged to find a unit that appeals to their interests or hobbies.
Fundraising: Shriners hold fundraising events to support both themselves and the hospitals. One of the most visible is the Shrine Circus. Any event that’s designated as a hospital fundraiser sends 100 percent of the proceeds to Shriners Hospitals.
Parades: A tradition has developed over the years between Shriners and parades. Anybody can march in a parade, and Shriners pride themselves on their marching bands and wild costumes. But as a way to become more distinctive, Shriners began introducing cars, motorcycles, mini-bikes, go-karts, and tiny cars into the parades. It seems Shriners took to anything with wheels.