Christening and Baptism Traditions
How did the tradition begin?
The roots of Christening tradition lie in the ancient Judaic cleansing rituals.
Christening, also known as Baptism, literally means “to bring to Christ“. The word “baptism” is rooted in the Greek word “baptizein“, which means “to dip, plunge or immerse“.
A celebration for family and friends is the perfect way to welcome your little one!
Regardless of your denomination this special day, when the child is officially named, gives you and your loved ones the opportunity to welcome your child into the Family, the Church, and the Community.
Christening is also a chance to formally and publicly join your friends, family and church in thanking God for the gift of your child’s birth and life, followed by celebration and rejoicing for that life
Another basis for Christening is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples after his resurrection. Prior to his ascension into Heaven, he tells them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”
The difference between Christenings and Naming Ceremonies is that one is a religious ceremony, the other non-religious. A Christening, or Baptism, is a religious service in which a child is introduced into the Church. Naming ceremonies, on the other hand, were created as an opportunity for non-religious parents to welcome their child into the world.
A naming ceremony focuses on parenting, on a declaration of commitment or intent towards the child, and on welcoming the child into his family and his community. Unlike a christening, a civil naming ceremony gives you the opportunity to appoint older sponsors in various roles (not just as godparents) to ask family and friends for their support as you raise your child, and to formally show your appreciation to your parents for their parenting of you. The opportunity is also provided to explain the significance of the names chosen for the child.
Baby Christening Traditions
The christening of a child is a momentous occasion. Each family has their own traditions for the occasion and passes these traditions from generation to generation.
Either members of the family or close friends of the parents, the Godparents participate at the baptism and commit to look after the moral and spiritual upbringing of the child in the absence of the parents. The bestowing of godparents upon the child is a longtime tradition at the christening ceremony which began when fourth-century Christians were concerned about persecution from non-Christians, and began to require new members to be sponsored by existing members of the church. By the year 800, when infants were commonly baptized to Christianity, a sponsor for an infant came to be called “patrinus,” or godfather.
While in certain cultures the naming ceremony is held soon after the birth, in others this may take place days, weeks, months or even a year later. To a certain extent, the date will be determined by whether you want a religious or secular ceremony. Christening services tend to be held at the end of a regular Sunday service and the party tends to roll on afterwards into the afternoon and end early evening. A Naming ceremony, however, is more a service and party all rolled into one and can be held on any day of the week, at any time. Neither, however, needs to be held within any particular period of the birth — it’s quite common nowadays to see two or more children from the same family christened together.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about the number of people to invite. It can be a small affair with only close family members and godparents or, in the case of a naming ceremony, the adults you want to have a strong presence in your child’s future. Alternatively, you may want to have a larger gathering that includes neighbours and even work colleagues.
As the party tends to follow on after the church service, it makes sense for the venue to be nearby. If you can’t get (or don’t fancy) the church hall, there’s a lot to be said for choosing an informal venue such as your house or another venue with a garden. Chances are there will be other children present, and a more casual setting means that they can run around and enjoy themselves, too.
Traditionally a christening robe or gown was a dress, worn by both boys and girls, with short sleeves and a long skirt. The expanse of the skirt allowed for the quality of the fine cotton, linen, silk or intricate embroidery to be shown off in a display of wealth and status. The dress was almost always white to symbolise purity and innocence and was usually accompanied by a bonnet and shawl. In later years it became fashionable for boys to wear silk or satin sailor suits or rompers, complete with sailor hat.
A personalized, often embroidered, bib is bought for the child to be worn during the ceremony. The bib acts as a protection for heirloom christening gowns and becomes a keepsake to mark the occasion.
A certificate signed by the clergy officiating the ceremony is a standard tradition. The certificate serves as an official notice of the date and time of the occasion, and acts as a keepsake for the parents.
Memory books mark the occasion with photos and attending guest signatures. Baptism certificates, ceremony invitations, and comments from the parents and attendees are often included.
A keepsake reminder of your child’s celebration. It can be kept and lit on Baptismal anniversaries or birthdays. There are a number of important symbols that are a part of the Baptismal Ceremony. One of these is the Baptism Candle. Light from the Paschal (Easter) Candle will be used to light the Baptism Candle. This light symbolizes the light of Christ who is the Light of the World. The Baptism candle reminds us that the light of Christ has entered the child’s life; and its flame symbolizes the flame of faith which will burn throughout the life of the child.
Usually the father of the child or a godparent will stand by the child and hold this candle. You might ask the priest beforehand whether it is the custom in your parish for the parents to bring their own Baptism Candle or whether the parish provides them. If you provide the candle, you can choose either to buy a baptismal candle or to decorate one yourself.
There are many verses appropriate for engraving gifts, candles, cards etc. These are just a few:
A baby is God’s Celebration of Life. It is a gift of Love Hope & Joy
A baby is born & brings Hope & Joy along with the love of a Baby Boy (Baby Girl)
For so long we dreamed of you…we wished for you…and prayed for you…finally you came. Our hopes and dreams paled into comparison for you are more than we could ever hope for.
Little child of God, so precious and so dear. Jesus is watching over you, He is always near.
Angel of God my Guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen
You are a gift given to us by God.
You fill our hearts with so much Love & Joy. May he always guide your life.
A Precious new Angel, so full of Life, Love and Hope