Around 150,000 baptisms take place in the UK every year under the encompassing religion of Christianity. Reverend Mark Fletcher, vicar of Church on the Corner, Islington, London, says: ‘Having a baby is a mystical experience and many parents want to recognise this in some way.’
What to expect:
It usually takes place in church, and is often part of the regular Sunday morning act of worship. ‘It’s a beautiful but solemn service,’ says Reverend Mark. ‘You and your baby will be asked to gather at the church font, along with godparents you have chosen. The minister pours three scoops of water over the baby’s head to baptise them. Most babies cry, which is perfectly normal, as they’ve just had lukewarm water poured over them. I think it’s a sign of a good christening!’
The vicar should guide you through the ceremony and you’ll have rehearsed what to say. Family and friends gather for a celebration afterwards – with the baby as guest of honour.
Where to start:
Talk to your local vicar. Don’t feel intimidated – they’ll be happy to help. ‘Remember that the local parish church is your church!’ says Reverend Mark. The christening service is free, but there may be a small charge for the certificate of baptism – around £9 – and you may want to give the church a small donation. Try www.achurchnearyou.org.uk for Church of England, and www.catholicchurch.org.uk for the Catholic Church.
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- Think carefully about godparents. They’re usually christened and confirmed themselves, and need to commit to taking a hand in your child’s upbringing, so you need to make sure they’re comfortable with that.
- Beautiful christening gowns that have been handed down in a family are a lovely idea, but they can be fairly fragile and may get wet. You might want to opt for something more practical for your baby to wear.
- Guests will probably want to give your baby a gift to mark the day. You may want to guide their choice with a gift list. It works just like a wedding list: try www.littlebeans.co.uk. Alternatively, you might prefer to request a donation to a children’s charity such as Great Ormond Street (www.gosh.org).
‘A christening may be a bit heavy for people who haven’t had much to do with the church before. You can always opt for a Thanksgiving service, where prayers are said and the baby is blessed,’ suggests Reverend Mark. Ask your local vicar about this option.
‘We used a christening gown – a family heirloom – for Zack’s christening and he looked lovely. The Christening took place during Mass and the congregation all clapped once he was christened.’
Vanessa, 34, mum to one-year-old Zack
Naming traditions around the world
The form of a naming ceremony depends on the school of Buddhism followed. There is a wealth of forms of worship, but generally Buddhism focuses on personal spiritual development rather than worshipping deities. www.buddhanet.net
A Hindu child is greeted with a Namkaran naming ceremony and a Havan (sacred fire) purifying ritual 12 days after the birth. www.hfb.org.uk
Muslims hold a number of events on the seventh day of a baby’s birth, including choosing a name. www.mcb.org.uk
In the Jewish faith, a rabbi conducts the Zeved Habat naming ceremony for girls and the Brit Milah for boys, at home or in the synagogue. www.jewish.co.uk
For information on other faiths and their naming practices try www.multifaithcentre.org.
If you would prefer a non-religious naming ceremony, read our top tips here…