Let’s take a quick break from all the Christmas posting to talk a little bit about baptism. Are gifts required or the norm? As babies are born year-round, Baptisms happen year-round. Just because we are absorbed in the holidays doesn’t mean we have forgotten about the blessed sacrament of baptism! What is baptism? How is it celebrated? This post will focus on the baptism of babies and young children. Entrance (“baptism”) into the Catholic church for older children and adults is called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and my be covered in a future blog post. Stay tuned!
Baptism is a sacrament in which all Christian churches partake, although when and how it is carried out differs. In the Catholic church, baptism – or christening – usually occurs during infancy, although older children or adults who convert can also receive the sacrament. Baptism is the remission of original sin and the Holy Spirit’s inaugural mark on a life. The baptismal sacrament begins a Catholic child’s path towards the other sacraments and a rich faith life. At a baptism, at least one non-parent must be presented as a sponsor, otherwise known as a godparent. Most parents choose two godparents, one of each gender, a godmother and a godfather. A godparent must serve as an example and role model in the church, while actively supporting the child in their Catholic and life endeavors.
The actual baptism sacrament (for infants) can be administered during a parish mass on a Sunday. However, many families opt for a more private sacramental ceremony that takes place later, after mass has concluded. The child is anointed with oils by the priest. Blessed water is poured over the child’s head several times to signify the clearance of original sin. White garments are worn to symbolize purity and mirror the white shrouds in which Jesus was wrapped after his death.
After the baptism ceremony,a family and friends often gather for food and/or cake. This can take place in a church basement/multi-purpose room or off-site - at the family’s home or a restaurant.
It is common to celebrate baptism with a present to the child and family; many people mark the welcoming of a new child into the world with a baptism gift for the boy or girl. As with any gift, the giver must consider gender, budget, and the receiving family’s personal taste. But there are many choices to suit a variety of Christening gift-giving needs.
You can select a traditional christening gift – like a simple wooden baby rosary or religious crib medal – or choose something more modern like a plush stuffed animal or religious toy set. Christening jewelry is a popular baptism gift for boys or girls. Other options include picture frames, photo albums, wall crosses, or something personalized. Some people choose a baptism gift for baby boy or baby girl that they will actually wear or use on the day of the sacrament. The aforementioned jewelry is one such gift, but others choose to present the family with a gown, christening blanket, special occasion clothing or even books/materials to help them prepare for the sacrament. If this is the case, be sure to give the gift well in advance of the baptism date. In some cases (especially with a gown), you may want to discuss your desire to purchase that item with the family directly to ensure you are ‘in line’ with their wishes for day-of attire.
One final note - a godparent’s choice for a baptism gift for the baby boy or girl is particularly important, as these Christening gifts are treasured for years to come. A gift from the godparent really does symbolize one of the most important religious and personal relationships a child will have; they represent one of the child’s earliest bonds.