Christening, also called baptism, is a ceremony initiating a person into the Christian faith. The Catholic Church considers baptism the only way to achieve eternal happiness upon death. The act of baptising involves either immersing a person three times in water or pouring water upon his head three times, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Although historically performed on adults, the more modern practice is to christen an infant.
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A christening may be held individually or several at one time. Some churches hold baptisms during normal services or only on specific dates, while others allow you to choose a date. A stone or wooden basin serves as the location of the actual baptism. For churches that still submerge the initiated fully into water, the basin must be big enough to immerse an adult. For the modern practice of pouring water over the person's head, a smaller water vessel is needed. The water used in the ceremony must be blessed by a member of the clergy.
The parents of the child being christened must meet with a representative of the church to determine if they are able to hold the ceremony there. Each church has its own membership requirements for hosting a christening. Some may require the parents take classes in preparation for the baptism. The parents are also responsible for selecting the godparents who will stand with them during the ceremony.
During the christening, the godfather and godmother traditionally stand with the child's parents before the officiant. The ceremony may require one of the godparents to hold the child at specific times. Vows may be made on behalf of the child, so the clergy may require one or both godparents to be of the same faith as the church. The honour of being named a child's godparent carries the responsibility of guiding the child spiritually as he grows.
Being invited to a child's christening is an honour. As such, proper dress and behaviour should be observed. Customary church attire is appropriate and quiet, respectful manners acknowledge the solemnity of the occasion. While not required, gifts for the child are customary, particularly if a reception is held afterward. An ornamental cross, photo frame or even money are traditional christening gifts.
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