What is a Naming Day Ceremony?

baby naming ceremony

What is a Naming Day Ceremony?

What is a naming day ceremony and is it the right option for you as you welcome a new baby into your life?  Ethical Celebrant Yvonne Cassidy explains how this ceremony can be a beautiful addition to or an alternative to the traditional christening ceremony.

Jake’s Ceremony

I recently worked on a naming day celebration for a little boy, which is another type of ceremony that Independent Ethical Celebrants provide.  I am still often asked what exactly is a naming day celebration, and how does it differ from a traditional christening.

The answer is pretty similar to the one I give when asked about the wedding ceremonies I do.  The joy of choosing an independent celebrant to perform a naming day celebration is that you have total freedom to have whatever type of ceremony you’d like to have.

Sometimes people get a bit stumped by this and don’t know where to start, but don’t worry. That is where your celebrant comes in.  I am always on hand to give advice and direction, but ultimately it is the decision of the parents on how they want to celebrate their new child. Often the ceremony will include some background as to why that particular name was chosen, but after that it is a blank sheet and you can really have fun putting it together.

Jake’s parents chose two Guide Parents for him, who would take a lifelong interest in his life and always be a friend to him, offering support and guidance when he needs it.  Both Guide Parents chose their own dedications to make to him, which were funny, heartfelt and beautiful.  They had really taken their roles seriously and put a lot of thought and effort into what they wanted to promise him.

Creating Memories

One thing in particular I like to suggest to parents is to do a Memory Jar.  In this, all the guests will place a handwritten note giving some words of wisdom or advice for the future, or whatever they want to say.  The jar is then kept until the child is older, usually an 18th birthday or something like that, when it is given to them. I love this as some of the guests at the naming day might not be around when the child is say 18 and the jar is given to them.  It is like getting a special message from them.

Writing is becoming almost obsolete now with everyone having some sort device, and I think it is unfortunately becoming a dying art-form. So few people actually write letters by hand these days. Everyone’s handwriting is so unique that I think having a sample of someone’s handwriting is like having a part of them with you and something to be treasured.

For Jake’s ceremony all of the guests signed a wooden heart which was then dropped into a frame.  His parents planned to place the frame on the wall of his bedroom, so he would always have a reminder of the people who came out to celebrate with him.

Does it replace a christening?

Parents who choose a naming day celebration are often not very religious themselves and feel hypocritical getting their child christened in a church.  But they still want to celebrate the momentous change in their lives. So they opt for a personal naming day celebration instead.

Some parents will actually choose to do both, the traditional church baptism and a personalised ceremony at home.

The baptism barrier was recently lifted from our schools and this was a factor in many people getting their children christened. However many schools still follow the Catholic ethos, teach Catholicism and I think it will be a while before people’s mindsets change towards getting their children christened for school.  I think many parents are still nervous not to in case they don’t get a school place. This will change but I personally think it will be a slow change.

But whether it is done as an alternative or in tandem with a traditional baptism, a naming day celebration is one of fun, of family and friends, of celebrating the new child, grandchild, cousin, brother, sister.  It is full of joy and hope and possibility for the child’s future.

I believe more and more parents will choose to celebrate their new child in this way and I’m looking forward to seeing the shift towards a more personalised ceremony.


About the author

IECS member Yvonne Cassidy is an Independent Ethical Celebrant and wedding florist, based in Dublin.  She works with couples from all over the world, helping them create a wedding ceremony that is fun, relaxed and personal. Contact Yvonne today to enquire about any of her services and to check availability.

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