Welcome to the Family:
Religious Naming Ceremonies for the New Baby
Naming ceremonies cross all religious and national boundaries. The tradition of embracing a new life as part of the community began in ancient times, when early humans believed that a child was a gift of the gods and there was no concept of exactly how the gift was bestowed.
In modern times, there is more knowledge about the process of how the tiny new life began, but the miracle of a birth is still cause for celebration in the family and the community. Religious naming ceremonies take on different forms depending on the faith of the parents, but they all have some common features based on this universal heritage.
Welcome the child into the community
The birth of a child is a proud moment for the mother and father. The extended family, the larger community of friends and neighbors and the congregation that the parents worship with all share the joy at the news. The bris, christening, baptism or naming ceremony of each faith all serve the purpose of welcoming the new member of the community. In part it is an introduction, but a bit of the ceremony stems from the concept that each adult present at the ceremony is in part responsible for the care of the child. This is the reason that gifts are given at these ceremonies.
Announce the names that have been chosen
Choosing the name of the new baby is not a simple task. In some cultures the name of the parent or a respected friend or relative is given to the child. Other cultures give the name of a deceased relative to honor the memory of the ancestors. In other cultures, the religious elders are consulted to provide a name that will bring good fortune to the child. No matter what method if used, the choice of the given name is important and the naming ceremony serves to identify this new baby as someone who exists as a unique individual - with a name that has meaning. Often, the meaning of the name is explained as part of the ceremony.
Make promises of commitment to the child
The adults who are chosen to attend religious naming celebrations are usually close to the parents. They are either related by birth or have become close through friendship or shared beliefs. This is the core of the community that the new baby belongs to. These are the adults who will share and shape the future of the child. Being asked to participate in these ceremonies is an honor, but also a commitment.
Choose other adults to provide for the child
In most religious ceremonies, a godparent or godparents are chosen. Although all of the adults are committed to cherish and care for the new baby, the role of godparent is more serious. They promise that they will make sure that the child is taken care of and raised in the faith if for some reason the parents are not able to do this. Being a godparent is not something that should be entered into lightly.
So the next time you are asked to attend a naming ceremony, respond with the knowledge that you are following a tradition that goes back to the dawn of mankind. You are the recipient of a special honor and carry a special responsibility to share in the nurturing of a new life.
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