Children's Christening Tradition and History

Updated April 17, 2017

Christian religions often have religious ceremonies known as baptisms to bring a person into the religion officially. While these ceremonies can be performed on people of any age, most often those baptised are infants. These ceremonies occur around a month after the baby’s birth and are important celebrations for both the family and the congregation. In the Catholic religion, this ceremony is known as christening.


Infant baptism has been part of Christianity since around the third century, according to the website "" Christenings began as a ceremony to give an infant a Christian name and was then followed by a baptism. However, the two terms were used interchangeably once the tradition of naming children directly after birth began. Catholic baptisms act as a way to deliver the first sacrament of the church to the infant.


Infant baptism ceremonies in American Catholic churches usually stand as a separate ceremony. British christenings occur within the weekly mass, according to the website "Born Gifted." During the ceremony, the parents and godparents present the baby to the priest. The priest then goes through a baptism ritual script, a standard script that the Catholic church uses for baptisms. The baby is then spiritually purified by being sprinkled with baptism water or the water is poured over the child’s head.


Traditionally, infants being christened wear a special christening gown. The website "Baby World" states that a baby’s christening clothing is often white or cream coloured. Boys and girls both wear a gown traditionally, but some modern parents put their sons in white suits instead. Many families pass down a christening gown through generations.


Godparents in a christening ceremony act as the infants’ representatives within the church, according to the website "Baptism Initiative.' Godparents are chosen by the infants’ parents and in many cases, they act as parental stand-ins should something happen to the baby’s parents. Godparents help the birth parents adhere to bringing the infant up according to the rules of the church.


After the christening ceremony is over, some parents choose to have a baptism party or reception for their child. These parties can be as small or extravagant as the parents choose. "Born Gifted"’s website mentions that a buffet-style party is common. Sometimes, parents hand out baptism mementos to guests, which are small tokens to note the date of baptism. These gifts can include things like personalised mint tins, picture frames or engraved necklaces.


Guests at a baptism often bring gifts for the infant to commemorate his or her entry into the church. Traditional gifts, as noted by the website "Born Gifted," include items such as silver or china. Many people give the infant a personalised Bible or silver cross necklace, while others opt for religious-themed blankets or clothing.

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About the Author

Ticara Gailliard is a college graduate with a degree in communications/film and video production from the University of Memphis. She has been a writer for over 15 years and has been published in local writing magazines such as "Grandmother Earth." She also edited two books for her high school.