A new arrival. Fresh into the world out of the blue. No identity to anyone but his or her immediate family. No past, no history but a whole new future...
The first formal steps in a new baby’s life have already happened, it has been born, hugged, suckled and given – hopefully – a name. All this, though, in the privacy of its family. Now it is time to bring this newcomer out into the open to be introduced to the friends, family and community that will surround its early life and then more.
Every culture has its naming ceremony, in the UK this is more often than not a christening with parents and godparents, friends and family and a minister of one of our many churches. However, for many of us a church service sits uncomfortably with our own more secular beliefs. Personally I wimped out when my twins were born in 1987; as little more than ‘Cultural Christians’ we rejected a baptism but still asked for a church blessing – all the pomp and none of the meaning. I wish I'd known about independent celebrants thirty years ago!
Today’s namings serve the same purpose, the child is introduced, named and a number of people can be asked to take the godparent role, albeit in a secular form. Mentors? Guardians? Aunts and uncles (which they often are)? Even as a humanist and an atheist I have no problem with the word ‘godparent’ – after all, most people know what it means – but, as in any ceremony, the choice is yours and yours alone and I am happy to make suggestions.
Just as described for a wedding, there is a place for additional symbolic ceremonies to accompany this event: candles, promise-books, tree-planting and the giving of simple jewellery such as bangles or even the traditional napkin ring are just a few of the ideas that have been used.
Like any other ceremony, preparation is the key. I would expect to spend an hour or two with you making initial sketches for a ceremony that suits you with the actual naming lasting usually no more than fifteen minutes – most babies can’t concentrate for much longer than that!
OTHER NAMING CEREMONIES
Although the principle of naming and introducing is mainly associated with babies, there are other occasions that can take on a ceremonial aspect given a bit of imagination. Boats, houses and prize livestock have all had their own rituals down the ages and I’m not averse to giving any of these a go. I would treat the naming of a yacht with exactly the same integrity, care and preparation that I would apply to a baby-naming. I’m rather looking forward to (i.e. still waiting for) my first really ‘offbeat naming’!