A new little life is always a big miracle, and almost all cultural and faith traditions include some kind of ceremony for honoring that blessing. I’ve seen many parents blend and reinvent these traditions to fit their beliefs, personalities and unique family makeup. In that spirit, here are some of the basics of new baby rituals and traditions, along with ideas from my own experience for making them personal and meaningful.
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Many families choose a dedication ceremony for their child. This is what my husband and I did for our two daughters. It was almost identical to the baby baptisms I’ve attended but without the use of consecrated water. We chose this ritual because its emphasis on the child and family as part of a community of faith suited us best. As part of the ceremony, the congregation and extended family promise to come alongside the parents and help them raise their child to know and love God. That’s something I can get behind. It really does take a village!
About that village…Now is the time to think about the adults who will help guide your child. This could include godparents, grandparents or any other adults who will play an important role in the child’s life. Is there a way to recognize or honor them during the celebration?
Baptism is most strongly connected with Christian tradition, but it is also used as a catchall name for the baby blessing celebrations of many faiths. People hold differing beliefs about the significance of infant baptism, but generally speaking it’s a way to introduce and dedicate the baby to a faith that will support the child as he or she grows up. A baptism usually takes place in the family’s church or place of worship, either as part of the regular weekly service or as a separate ceremony, with extended family and friends in attendance, and it usually includes a meal or other after-party immediately following.
Thinking ahead…In some countries, it’s customary to plant a tree for a new baby. My friend’s mother planted peonies when her first son was born. Now they’re blooming every year on his birthday.
These celebrations are becoming more common. The focus may be simply on introducing baby to family and friends. They can incorporate elements of different cultural traditions reflecting the parents’ heritages, and they may or may not have a specific faith context. Some are huge celebrations when the baby is a few months old. For a college friend of mine, it was more low key just three young moms, their babies and their pastor there to bless the new arrival and to welcome my friend to motherhood.
Why just one? There may be opportunities for a formal or informal welcoming celebration whenever baby goes to visit. My mother did this for me the first time I brought my older daughter to visit my hometown in western Kansas. It was very touching to see many of the women who surely held me as a baby all there passing my pride and joy around, oohing and aahing.
From a Jewish bris to a Hindu namakarana, many new baby ceremonies and celebrations involve bestowing or announcing baby’s name. In modern American culture, naming usually happens before leaving the hospital. But the name can still be formalized through a ceremony and commemorated with a printed birth announcement.
What’s in a name? Consider incorporating a naming element into the baby of honor’s big day. Her name may already be chosen and known, but it could be fun to share the name’s significance or how it was chosen.
Whatever form the celebration takes, be sure to take lots of pictures. Those little miracles do grow fast!