Christening traditions

Updated April 17, 2017

A christening, or baptism, marks a person's entry into Christianity and membership in the church. It is an ancient rite, the first sacrament received by Christians and especially Catholics. Baptism traditions are steeped in history and vary from one country to another. Before the christening, the church gives an indoctrination to the parents and godparents of a child to familiarise them with the different symbolisms and meanings of being baptised and being a Christian.

Traditions in Wales

In a christening ceremony in Wales, the baby is either partially or completely submerged into the holy water. It is common belief among the Welsh that when a baby holds up its head while being submerged, it means he/she will enjoy a long life. On this significant occasion, Welsh gold, considered rare and a very important resource unique to the country, has become a traditional christening gift, signifying the passing down of a valuable piece of heritage.

Traditions in Russia

In the Russian Orthodox church, infants are dipped into the water three times as the priest pronounces the catechetical prayer. He then proceeds to bless the water, dress the baby in the christening shirt, and give him/her a cross pendant. Traditionally, a godfather (koum) and a godmother (kouma) are chosen for the baby, who will then assume the role of helping their godchild cope with life and its difficulties.

Traditions in Ireland

Irish Catholics believe that the holy sacrament of baptism is an official declaration that the child is a follower of Jesus Christ. Christening traditions involve the blessing with holy water to represent new life and a new spiritual life, praying over the child and dressing him/her in a garment made of pure Irish linen.

Traditions in Greece

A Cretan christening is customarily a big occasion, with guests ranging from 50 to 3,000 and gathering in a festive atmosphere where food, drinks and dancing overflow. Framed pictures of the newly christened child is usually given out as favours. After the celebration, guests pass by the parents of the child to hand over their gifts (often envelopes containing 10 to 20 Euros) to help them pay for the big party.

Traditions in the Philippines

In the Philippines, Catholic christening involves a priest baptising a baby in private or simultaneously with other children. In a mass christening, the priest goes from one child to another, blessing them with holy water and performing the baptismal rite, as the parents and godparents respond in behalf of the children. It is customary to have several godfathers and godmothers, as parents believe that the more godparents a child has, the more assured he/she is of a good future.

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About the Author

Rose Sartaguda is a freelance writer/creative consultant. A professional writer for more than 10 years, she is also the creative director of Music of My Soul, a nonprofit media organization.