Naming a child is usually through the baptism ceremony in Catholic culture, as well as in Orthodox culture, and to a lesser degree among those Protestants who practice infant baptism. Though this is true for majority of the Christian population, the traditions of the land they were born might differ. There is no specific time scale of a christening but, most traditionally parents like to do it before a baby is 6 months old but it can be done anytime in reality.
Traditionally known as Namkaran or Namakarana Sanskar, this ceremony is conducted in an elaborate form on the 12th day after birth. In Kerala, this is conducted on 27th/28th day and called as Noolukettu.
The Namakarma Sanskar is usually held after the first 11 nights of a baby’s delivery. These 11 post-natal days are considered as a period during which the child is adjusting to the new environment and thus very vulnerable to infections. To ensure this, the mother and child are separated from the rest of the family during these 10 days where no one except a helper/ mothers mother is allowed to touch the baby or the mother. All festivals and events in the family and extended family are postponed by 11 nights. After those 11 nights, the house is decorated and sanctified for the ceremony. The mother and child are bathed traditionally and are prepared for the ceremony. This is most likely to avoid infecting baby or mother. Relatives and close friends are invited to be a part of this occasion and bless the child. Priests are called and an elaborate ritual takes place.
In Kerala, a black thread and gold chain called an aranjanam are tied around the baby’s waist on the 28th day. In certain parts of the state, it is performed on the 27th if it is a baby boy. The child’s eyes are lined with mayye or kanmashi (Kohl). A black spot is placed on one cheek or asymmetrically on the forehead, to ward off the evil eyes. The grandfather whispers the chosen Hindu name in the child’s right ear three times while the left ear is covered with a betel leaf. This is then repeated with the left ear. A mixture of ghee (melted and clarified butter) or honey is given to the infant as a base for its various foods in the future. At some places, an arati is performed for seven times with a lamp thread in a leaf.
According to the date and time of birth of the child, a particular letter of the Sanskrit alphabet associated with the child’s solar birth sign (soorya Rashi) is chosen which would prove lucky for the baby. The baby is then given a name starting with that letter. Usually the grandfather whispers the name four times in the right ear of the baby. In Maharashtra, this is performed by the paternal aunt. The baby receives blessings from all, including the priests. An elaborate feast is organized for the priests and the guests, as a closing event of the ceremony.
The Namakaran Sanskar is also performed on adult converts to Hinduism to mark their formal entrance into Hinduism. The convert chooses a Hindu name to declare his allegiance to Hinduism and his severance from his former religion. A Vedic fire sacrifice is then performed and the convert writes his new name in a tray of uncooked rice.
Some secular humanists perform a naming ceremony as a non-religious alternative to ceremonies such as christening. The purpose is to recognise and celebrate the arrival of a child and welcome him or her in the family and circle of friends. The structure often reflects that of more traditional naming ceremonies, with a formal ceremony led by a humanist celebrant in which the parents name ‘guide parents’, ‘mentors’ or ‘supporting adults’ instead of godparents. A humanist has to follow strict guidelines within their ceremonies and may have to say no to some elements you might want.
In Islam, the baby is named on the seventh day by the mother and father who make a decision together on what the child should be called. They choose an appropriate name, usually Islamic, and with a positive meaning. Aqiqah takes place on the seventh day also, this is a celebration which involves the slaughter of sheep. Sheep are sacrificed and the meat is distributed to relatives and neighbours and given to the poor. If the father does not have enough funds, he may do it anytime in the future as long as it is done in general.
In the Jewish tradition, baby boys are named on the eighth day after their birth. Girls are named within the first two weeks. Common Ashkenazi custom maintains that girls should be named when the father is called up to the Torah on a Torah reading day closest or close to when the girl is born, although practice often has baby girls named at the Torah reading on the first Shabbat following birth.
In Wiccan religion, at the initiation (or dedication) ritual, initiates take a Wiccan Name (Craft Name). This name is not used in public, but only among other Wiccans in religious gatherings. Some Wiccan authors use their Wiccan name on their books, such as Silver RavenWolf. For a Wiccan, taking a Wiccan name symbolizes a rebirth.
My Naming Ceremony
A Naming Ceremony is an opportunity to declare before family and friends, your promises to be as good a parent as you can, and for adult friends or relatives to confirm their special relationship with your child.
As I am a Civil Celebrant, I don’t have any restrictions and if within the ceremony, you want to add a spiritual prayer, I can add it…..after all it is your ceremony!
Most ceremonies usually last around 25-30 minutes all dependant of how many people involved and what extras you might want. A basic layout of your ceremony will be:
- Opening Words
- A Reading (Optional – Can be read by the Celebrant or a guest and can be something you have provided or, you can ask me to send you a selection to choose from)
- Parents story and how your child came to be, where they were born, what time etc.
- Naming of the Child(ren)
- Reasons for Names chosen (Optional)
- Parents’ Promises (Chosen from selection provided)
- Parent’s Vow to each other (Optional, chosen from selection provided)
- Second Reading (Optional – as above)
- Supporting Adults’ Promises – can be called Guide Parents, Mentors, Goodparents or Oddparents (tongue in cheek) or even Guardian angels. (Chosen from selection provided)
- Grandparents’ Promises (Optional, chosen from selection provided)
- Final Reading (Optional – as above)
- Remembering absent guests (Optional)
- Ceremony exxtras such as sand ceremony, finger tree, unity candle etc.
- Presentation of a special gift to the child(ren) (optional)
- Closing Words by Celebrant.
- Signing a commemorative Certificate.
Parents often ask ‘what happens at the ceremony?’
My answer is always that it’s your ceremony and you choose what goes into it. Together, we create a ceremony that is a reflection of your family vision and values.