There are a variety of ways of celebrating the gift of a new life, either in a place of worship or at home, conducted by a priest or by a member of the family…
Since the beginning of time, every culture has seen birth as a miraculous event that is part of the wonder and mystery of creation. For the parents and those close to them, there is a need to celebrate this remarkable event. In addition, there is the important business of bestowing a name, which is seen by many to have a sacred and magical significance.
Apart from the celebratory and religious aspect of a naming ceremony, there are also other implications. There is a declaration of intent where parents and godparents pledge themselves to bring up the child in a godly and upright way. The appointing of godparents or ‘god friends’ is a way of providing the child with well-wishers who will take a keen interest in his or her development. By formally announcing the name to the gathering, the child is welcomed as a member of the community.
Marking the birth with a special event and preserving mementos that surround the occasion provides the child with a sense of identity and a feeling of love, which will be treasured throughout life.
Here are some options for a birth celebration to help you find the one that is right for you:
Traditional christening or formal religious ritual
Several religions have formally prescribed rituals to do with naming, purification and blessing. A Christian baptism or christening is a wonderful way to mark a child’s birth and with many churches having it as part of the main Sunday worship, there’s a sense of a communal celebration. However, a baptism requires a commitment involving bringing up the child in the faith and attending church regularly. Most vicars and Catholic priests will need to see whether you are sincerely committed before agreeing to conduct the ceremony. Certain Christian denominations only believe in adult baptism as then the individual is fully conscious of its meaning. Also, it is worth noting that once a child has been christened in the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or a Methodist chapel and is issued a Baptismal Certificate, the given names cannot be changed afterwards.
This is designed for parents who see this as a preliminary to baptism; those parents who do not wish their children to be baptised immediately, or others who do not want to baptise their child into the Church, but recognise that the birth is something for which they wish to offer thanks to God. It is perfect for people who do not attend Church regularly themselves, but still believe in God. The ceremony gives thanks for the new baby’s arrival and asks for God’s blessings for the life ahead. This is becoming an increasingly popular form of marking the baby’s birth without the formality of an official baptism.
Civil naming ceremony
There are companies that provide a service, which includes writing a script and the visit of a trained celebrant for the event. It allows for a non-religious, yet structured ceremony and is flexible to include requests. Certificates are issued at the end of the ceremony as a memento of the event. Fees vary according to what is asked for, the location and the day of the week the event is held.
Humanist naming ceremony
The British Humanist Association can put together a personal and unique welcoming ceremony that is tailored to the requirements of the family concerned. It can be held outdoors or indoors and can include poetry, music and readings. The parents state their love and commitment to their child. Instead of godparents, the child has ‘guide parents’, or ‘special friends’ who can join in the ceremony and state that they will be there for the child as he or she grows up. The occasion can be marked with the planting of a tree and a book for everyone present to write a message for the child to read in later years.
Create your own ceremony
A personal and deeply meaningful ceremony can be put together, combining both naming ceremony and welcoming celebrations. Parents can take elements from various religions and cultures that have a particular resonance for them and write their own words and choose the music. It can be held in a hired venue or the home and be conducted by a celebrant, a friend, relative or a parent. Ideas that could be included are planting a tree, a white ‘christening’ outfit, and incorporating items such as flower petals, candles and incense.