The birth of a child is a huge life event for the parents of the newborn, and extended family too. Many parents will hold a Christening for the baby to begin the journey of raising the child in their religious faith. Other parents will hold a baby naming ceremony for their child, which can take different forms.
With ceremonies of this kind, it’s a chance to bring both sides of the family together and to welcome the baby into the world. There are a number of Irish Christening traditions, and parents may wish to incorporate these into their celebrations, or they may like to bring Irish Christening gifts to mark the day.
Two key people in the Christening of a baby are the godparents. This role can sometimes be filled by those who were also the witnesses to the marriage of the parents. Traditionally, this may have been the siblings of the baby’s parents, who remain a popular choice for godparents. However, in recent times friends are increasingly chosen as godparents at baptisms.
A godparent is chosen primarily to assist the parents in raising the child in their chosen faith. It’s a common belief that the godparents would also raise the child in the sad circumstance of anything happening to the parents. However, while this is a popular misconception in Ireland, guardianship of the child in this eventuality is not officially a part of the godparent role at all.
While the godparents may not become the official guardians of the child, they should certainly be people that the parents can trust to invest in the general wellbeing of their child, throughout life. Godparents often go on to support the child in later religious occasions, for example they may act as the child’s sponsor at Confirmation. Besides this, godparents tend to have a special relationship with the child, hopefully making an increased effort to remember birthdays and memorable milestones.
Christening Gown and Shawl
Looking to the traditions of the past, the Christening gown would generally have been white, while parents today sometimes choose other light colours, such as off-white, cream or ivory. Usually a white shawl is brought as well, and is placed around the baby after the baptism has taken place.
The most traditional fabric for a christening gown is Irish linen, although cotton and silk are also popular choices. These natural fabrics are more in line with old customs, as newer fabrics simply haven’t been around as long. Another step that parents can take to focus on tradition is to choose a Christening gown actually made from fabrics sourced in Ireland.
Christening gowns can also be finished with lace and adorned with historic Irish designs, whether these are shamrocks, Claddagh symbols, harps or Celtic knots. A lovely Irish tradition that connects the generations is to make the Christening gown from part of the mother’s wedding dress, which may be a similar colour and fabric. The christening gown can even be kept as a family heirloom and passed on for later baptisms.
Some people prefer to depart from tradition, choosing completely different outfits, even finding mini tuxedos for their babies! A mini tux certainly amps up the cute factor – just make sure that it’s allowed by the venue and celebrant where your baby’s Christening is taking place. And don’t forget that the main thing is that the baby is comfortable on the day, and the parents can easily change nappies as needed…
Throwing a Christening Party
The ceremony is followed by a celebration, usually involving food at the family’s home. This can be anything from a sit-down meal to a cup of tea, and everything in-between. A nice option can be a self-serve buffet. You likely have the whole family around and so finding a seat at the table for everyone might be a challenge. By making it a bit less formal, family members can help themselves to the food, and you just need to gather as many chairs as you can from around the house!
Naming Customs in Ireland
Historically with baby-naming in Ireland, a lot of the same names cropped up frequently over the years. This is likely due to Irish naming customs, which saw the same family names get used again and again.
These days, with a world of name options open to parents, we don’t necessarily stick to this naming pattern, but for many years the custom was to name as follows:
Baby Names for Girls
- 1st Daughter – Maternal grandmother’s name
- 2nd Daughter – Paternal grandmother’s name
- 3rd Daughter – Mother’s name
- 4th Daughter – Mother’s oldest sister’s name
- 5th Daughter – Father’s oldest sister’s name
Baby Names for Boys
- 1st Son – Paternal grandfather’s name
- 2nd Son – Maternal grandfather’s name
- 3rd Son – Father’s name
- 4th Son – Father’s oldest brother’s name
- 5th Son – Mother’s oldest brother’s name
Traditional Irish Christening Gifts
An old Irish tradition is for the baby’s mother to gift her Claddagh ring to the child if she has a daughter. While giving an adult-sized ring to a newborn might not be the most practical Christening gift, a nod to this ritual is seen in gifts adorned with the Claddagh symbol of the heart, hands and crown.
Another lovely tradition is to give the baby a silver coin on their Christening day. This is to symbolise a prosperous life ahead. In fact, silver gifts in general are considered appropriate for children being baptised.
A beautiful way to mark this moment in a child’s life is with our Baby Giftbox. The silver-plated presentation box harks back to this silver Christening gift tradition, and can be engraved to make it even more personal. Inside is a miniature reproduction of the newspaper from the day they were born – a wonderful Irish Christening gift that they can treasure forever.