The Ceremony, The Expectations, and The Etiquette

The Ceremony, The Expectations, and The Etiquette

The Purpose of a Christening

In most Christian denominations, the christening refers to the sacrament—dedication to Christ ceremony—of an infant or very young child (usually a year old or younger) where the child is baptized (sprinkled on the head or bathed in Holy water) and named. It is the first opportunity the parents—and Godparents—get to publically proclaim their intent to raise the child as a Christian.

In most churches and denominations, the parents of the child to be christened will have to attend pre-ceremony counselling, so that they understand why christening is important, how christening fits into their faith and what happens to during the ceremony.

What Happens During a Christening?

Though each christening ceremony may vary slightly, depending on the denomination, in general, the following happens during a christening:

  • The child is dressed in a special “christening” outfit that is usually white to symbolize purity and cleansing.
  • The child’s parents publically proclaim to raise the child in the Christian faith.
  • The child is baptized with holy water by sprinkling, dipping or full submergence, depending on the denomination.
  • A lit candle—representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world—is given to the parents.
  • The child may be named, depending on the denomination.

What is the Godparents’ Role?

Depending on the denomination, the role of the Godparents—an additional Christian mentor and, in some cases, persons that are willing and able to become the child’s legal guardian, if necessary; however, this requires legal documentation—may include:

1) At least two Godparents; some denomination require that two of the Godparents be the same sex as the child. The Godparents need not be married or related; in most cases, the only requirement is that they are Christians.

2) The ability and willingness to mentor the child in the ways of Christian life.

What Happens After the Christening Ceremony?

Usually after the christening, family and friends gather to celebrate with a meal, brunch, lunch or dinner, depending on the time of day that the christening ends. At the gathering, gifts may be exchanged; however, the giving of gifts is not mandatory. The celebration may also include cake-cutting and dedicating a plant or tree to the child to “grow” with the child, however, this is not as common as it once was. Additionally, this post-christening celebration also gives family and friend the opportunity to take photos of the child.