What Is a Christening? What Is a Baptism?

A christening or a baptism is more than just a photo-op for flowing white baby gowns and platters of catered fancy appetizers. The history of the events goes back centuries and the versions we celebrate today are steeped in generations of tradition. Let's take a closer look at the history and meaning of christenings and baptisms.

The Difference Between a Christening and a Baptism
The words "christening" and "baptism" are usually used interchangeably, however, there is a difference. A christening is essentially a naming ceremony. The root word "christen" literally means "to name". A baptism has more of a religious undertone and is more about dedicating or introducing the child to the Church instead of naming. Parents of all religions opt for christenings, while a baptism might usually be chosen to those wishing to put emphasis on the religious aspect of the ceremony.

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The History of Christening Ceremonies
While Christenings and Baptisms have been celebrated for thousands of years, the modern ceremony traditions that we're familiar with in America, have been happening since the 1800s. What was once a very formal religious event slowly turned into more of a family gathering and celebration. In the 1950s, the tradition of a large food-centered family meal and gathering after the actual ceremony began to take shape. 
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American Christening Traditions
Over that last century, the American baptism and christening traditions began taking shape. Today, there's a general set of expectations and etiquette that is very similar no matter what the family's religion or cultural background is. For example, invitations are usually sent by the baby's parents or godparents a few weeks prior to the event, formal attire is usually expected, and a banquet or appetizer reception is provided afterward at a different location. The child of honor is almost always dressed in a delicate gown or suit. Traditionally the baby's clothes were always white, but in the last few decades, the color choices have broadened, with some parents choosing creamy neutral colors or even pale pastels. The outfit baby wears becomes a family keepsake, sometimes passed down from generation to generation.

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Traditional Baptism Gifts
The baby of honor is usually showered with gifts at the reception of a baptism or christening. Gifts take on a more formal or religious theme than birthdays or Christmas, but there are no set rules for Baptism gift giving. Most guests choose simple sweet baby gifts like a stuffed toy or something that could be kept as a keepsake like this quilted blanket. Silver is also a traditional gift given at religious ceremonies that symbolizes wishes for prosperity. Engraved silver spoons, cups or picture frames are great choices for meaningful presents that will be cherished for a lifetime.
Whether you're invited to a Baptism or a Christening, you should feel honored that baby's family decided to include you in such a meaningful family event. Whether you share the same religious beliefs or not, just being there while a family celebrates the beginning of a new life is reason enough to celebrate.
 
 
 

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