So you now have given birth to a lovely baby girl or boy. What joy!
But now think about the first religious ritual in the Greek Orthodox tradition — the Christening. Christenings can be done at any age, but usually are done within the first year of birth as a rite of passage, as well as for practical reasons.
The traditions that surround a Greek Orthodox Christening ceremony vary between the regions of Greece, but all have common threads.
Choosing a Godparent:
The role of a godparent is to look after the spiritual development of the newborn.
In the Greek Orthodox tradition, you may have more than one Godparent but one must be a Greek Orthodox, and the others have to be Christians. The godparents should be chosen from close friendships and admired as role models for the child.
In fact, the families of the Parents and the Godparents, were so close, that traditionally they would exchange becoming Godparents from one generation to the other with each others families.
Naming the Baby:
Traditionally the first born son of the male parent was expected to be named after his paternal grandfather. This is discussed with the Godparent before the Christening, but ultimately the final decision is with the Godparent. Many villages have come unhinged when this tradition is not observed. So choose the Godparents carefully.
The Christening Ceremony:
The Greek Orthodox baptism is very distressing or even traumatic for a baby. He or she is surrounded with unfamiliar faces and surroundings. A word to the wise, the younger the baby, the better.
The religious ritual of course is of the utmost importance. It is the first sacrament performed symbolizing that the child has now become a Greek Orthodox and is now part of God’s kingdom. Among other religious symbolic acts performed within the religious ceremony, the child receives his first communion by his Godparent, and is presented by the Godparent with his first suit and coat, as well as a cross. This symbolizes that he is now a Christian, and with God’s grace, he should always proceed in life with prosperity.
Festivities after the Religious Ceremony:
A celebration always follows the religious ceremony. This gives an opportunity to the guest to offer their wishes to the “new Christian”. And of course there is reciprocity of good wishes from guest to guest. This of course is accompanied with hugs and kisses, a lot of laughter, good food and drinks, and more times than not, dancing and singing.
The guest shower the baby with loving gifts, and in return, the parents and/or godparents give all the guests a “bonbonniera” or better known today as a “favor”.