A christening is a special occasion, a day on which family and friends gather together to commemorate the arrival of a precious new life. Combine the traditional with the unique to create a memorable day for your guests.
Christening, also known as baptism, literally means "to bring to Christ". Regardless of your religious background, this special day gives you and your loved ones the opportunity to welcome your child into the family, the community, and the world. Part of the christening tradition is the formal blessing of the child by a clergyman or celebrant, which also includes the child's parents and godparents. This is reflected in Mark 10:13-16, which describes that when children were brought before Jesus, "He took the children in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them." A christening serves as a public, formal acknowledgement that the child is blessed by the unconditional love of God. Many non-religious parents choose to hold naming or dedication ceremonies instead of christenings, which serve a similar purpose in that they are a formal acknowledgement of the child's birth and welcome into the world.
A christening is essentially a service of blessing, which echoes the scripture quoted above, and is about recognising and celebrating that the child is receiving God's unconditional love. This kind of service takes place in a church and usually includes the sprinkling of holy water over the child. This recalls the experience of John the Baptist, who was christened or baptised by Jesus by being immersed in water to symbolically "wash away his sins". At this ceremony, godparents are named and charged with a responsibility for the spiritual life of the newly christened child. The ceremony usually follows a formally prescribed formula and is very rooted in tradition.
Naming ceremonies can be similar to christenings, but because they are not usually religious in nature, this allows parents to have much more scope to create a ceremony that reflects their personal beliefs and wishes for their new baby. One lovely idea is to have guests write their good wishes for the baby on slips of paper and place them in a special container, or in a special blank journal. Many people choose to have a celebrant to retain the atmosphere of formality. At these ceremonies, the child's name is officially announced and family and friends welcome the baby into their lives.
Christening gowns have traditionally been white in colour, symbolising innocence, purity, and new life. It has been said that for a girl, the christening gown is the most important garment in her life besides her wedding gown! Indeed, many mothers choose to have her child's christening gown sewn from her own wedding gown (or offcuts of fabric if she has been forward-thinking enough to ask the dressmaker for these!). Many christening gowns are family heirlooms and have been worn for generations. Christening gowns may be as simple or as fancy as the parents wish, but quality is the most important factor, especially if you plan to use the gown for other children. Boys don't necessarily have to wear a gown, either - many companies make special christening outfits for boys, which can be traditional sailor suits, rompers, or even miniature white tuxedos. There are also a gorgeous variety of accessories available: Booties, bibs, bonnets, socks, and shawls also make beautiful family heirlooms.
Flowers are traditionally used to decorate the church or other venue for the christening ceremony, and also the reception area for the celebration afterward. When choosing the flowers for your child's christening, look to seasonal blooms and greens, as they will be the most beautiful choices for the time of year. Spring is the perfect time for a christening, and spring flowers like those below have special meaning for your baby's special day.
Baby's breath: Pure heart, constancy
Lily: Purity, majesty
Daisy: Innocence, youth, gentleness
Ivy: Friendship, dependence, fidelity
White rose: Purity, humility, reverence
Hyacinth: Constancy, sincerity
Traditional christening gifts are long-lasting reminders of the child's importance and preciousness. Rather than choosing an ephemeral gift like a new outfit or a toy, why not look back to traditional gifts such as silver mugs or cutlery, a silver rattle, picture frame, or keepsakes such as a guardian angel figurine, coin minted in the child's birth year (the New Zealand Mint has a beautiful selection of these), cross necklace or bracelet, photo albums, or even a special rosary.
After the christening ceremony has finished, your guests will want to relax a bit and enjoy a party! An elegant morning tea is a lovely way to celebrate. Choose a theme that complements your child's special day, with soft colours and decorations that represent the event, such as angels, crosses, hearts, special flowers, and tealight candles. Another important part of the celebration is the christening cake, which is usually marked with the child's name or initial, and can be every bit as sumptuous as a wedding cake. Keep the menu simple and classic, and consider hiring caterers to minimise your stress on the day so you can enjoy time with your guests away from the kitchen!