Ceremonies – An Overview
Is there anything more wonderful than the arrival of a new baby? A brand new little person, ready to join the world. So it’s fitting that such a joyous occasion is celebrated. The question is, how?
People around the world have traditionally conducted a ceremony of some kind - religious or otherwise - to acknowledge the arrival of a new baby. There are many reasons for doing it, but usually it’s to welcome the baby into the family, church or community. Ceremonies help to formally introduce the baby to the people most likely to have an influence on its life or a part responsibility in its upbringing. It’s also a way for proud parents to invite their family, friends, fellow worshippers and community to meet their baby and share in their joy.
The kind of celebration you choose will depend on your beliefs and family values. Although baby ceremonies were largely held in a religious context in the past, these days there are a myriad of ways to celebrate your baby’s arrival. There is no right or wrong – just what works best for you and your family.
When to do it is another decision. Typically ceremonies take place in the first year of a baby’s life, but you can hold ceremonies for toddlers and older children. This often happens when a younger sibling arrives and parents decide to hold a ceremony for both. For religious reasons, some ceremonies happen within the first few days or weeks. However, you may want to wait until your baby is over six months to give yourself more time to investigate your options, recover from the birth or let your child become more settled.
Regardless of how or when you choose to celebrate, a baby ceremony is a special day that will give you, your family and friends lasting memories of this happy time.
This religious proceeding is the traditional baby ceremony in the UK. As church numbers have declined, so too have the number of christenings. However, they are still the most popular ceremony in the country. In 2005, the Church of England recorded 148,000 christenings and thanksgivings while the Catholic Church had 66,500.
In a christening, parents and elected godparents promise to bring up the child in the Christian faith. Godparents are normally Christian friends of the parents or members of the extended family. The ceremony usually forms part of a the main Sunday service – in the Church of England christenings usually take place during a service as it requires the community to make promises on behalf of the child. However, depending on your local priest, private ceremonies can be arranged.
Many parents wonder whether they need to be regular church-goers to have their child christened. It varies church by church. Some priests expect regular attendance and commitment to the Church, while others take a more relaxed approach.
There has been increasing debate about whether people should be undertaking christenings if they’re not devout Christians. Some regular church-goers find it offensive when non-attendees make religious promises they’re unlikely to keep but others believe that God’s love is available to all, regardless of their background. There’s also been a growing trend and heated debate about people baptizing their children simply to get them into a good church-run school, rather than as a result of any religious convictions.
When deciding whether a christening is right for you, bear in mind that you will be expected to make vows in the ceremony, which like wedding vows, are meant to be upheld.
Thanksgiving Service or Blessing Service
This was initiated by the Church of England in 1999. It suits people who still want a religious ceremony offering thanks to God for the gift of the child or getting their child blessed by the church, but without making a full commitment of baptism into the faith. If you’re not a regular churchgoer and but you still want a religious ceremony, this might be the option for you.
The ceremony usually forms part of a regular service. Thanks for the child is given and the child is blessed. Godparents are not elected but Supporting Adults can be named who will play a similar role. If the parents or child want to opt to hold a full baptism at a later date, they can.
These non-religious ceremonies have grown in popularity over recent years. They suit parents who want a formal celebration with limited or no religious content, similar to civil weddings.
During a naming ceremony parents and elected ‘special or supporting adults’ make promises of commitment to the child. The ceremony is usually officiated by a celebrant but can be performed by a friend or relative. Vows and promises can be personalised and grandparents can also be included in the promise-making. Parents can include non- religious readings or poems if desired.
There is greater flexibility as to where the ceremony can be held, and some can even take place at home. The ceremony script and celebrant services are offered by a number of organizations including:
After the Ceremony
Regardless of whether you have a religious or non-religious ceremony, a baby ceremony usually ends with a social get together either at your home or at another suitable venue. They can be as simple as tea and cake or a full sit down meal. It’s a great opportunity to introduce your baby to family and friends in a more relaxed environment.
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