Sunday 17 December 2017

Christenings sure look like a smart bet to us non-Catholics

Newborn baby baptism by water in font with hands of priest
Newborn baby baptism by water in font with hands of priest

I spent the weekend in Galway with my extended family.

We were gathered together to celebrate the Christening of the newest member of the family – baby Clodagh, born on January 2 this year. She’s the latest grandchild in a tally that now numbers 10.

As we were getting ready to gather for a pre-church family portrait, my eldest asked if we had hosted big parties when he and his siblings were born. He knows we’re not Catholics and don’t take part in church activities, unless invited, yet he was disappointed to learn that his arrival hadn’t been heralded with some kind of official celebration.

For one brief moment I felt a little sad. Maybe we should have had some kind of a naming ceremony, or even a casual welcome-to-the-world party, one where friends and family would have come together to acknowledge the arrival of these little people in the world and toast their births.

When our first-born arrived I did spend some time reading up on naming ceremonies before dismissing them. We had made the decision to bring up our children outside of a formal faith and the idea of holding a naming ceremony seemed a little, well, hippy-ish.

If anything, it would have drawn attention to our less-than-mainstream decision, something I wasn’t particularly inclined to do.

I wasn’t worried about anyone judging us, but didn’t see the point of highlighting our choices either. (To date, I’ve yet to be invited to anyone’s naming ceremony. It seems it’s Christenings or nothing at all for most.)

Three kids on, I’m perfectly content with our decision, but found myself pondering my eight-year-old son’s comments this week.

Not only had I deprived my children of an official welcoming ceremony (something I never imagined I’d be berated for by one of them), but I’d also denied my family the excuse of a formal shindig where everyone turns up in their Sunday best.

As each year passes, and the tally of grandchildren grows, so too does the opportunity for hanging out with our grown-up siblings exponentially reduced.

With growing families, busy little people to attend to, and in-laws scattered around the country, Christmas often presents the only chance many families have to regroup en masse.

Family weddings and parents’ wedding anniversaries might draw one side of a family together for a celebratory meal but don’t usually include relatives from both partners’ families.

The busier we are the less inclined we seem to arrange casual get-togethers with our loved-ones. Outside of significant birthdays (ones with a zero on the end) how many of us find ourselves with both families in full attendance at events?

Very few, which is why a Christening is such a perfect opportunity, or, in our case, such a missed one.

Aside from the social deprivation, it’s clear we’ve also deprived our kids of quite a stash of cash.

Call me crass or vulgar, but I wasn’t aware that €50 was the going rate for gift insertions in Christening cards these days (admittedly, in some cases, others gave even more.)

Am I the only one this seems excessive to? Are prize bonds relics of a bygone generation?

I daren’t do the maths, but these religious milestones (Christenings, Communions and Confirmations) seem to rack up not-inconsiderable nest eggs for each child involved.

Add up the three sacraments, and, depending on the number of guests and relations attending each celebration, it’s not unrealistic to suppose some children squirrel away €1,500+ by the time they’re 12.

With three kids in our house it’s time to admit we’ve done them a disservice.

Their bank balances are far unhealthier than their Catholic counterparts and our photo collections are lacking those nostalgic group photos with everyone dressed-up to the nines and, in many cases,

rocking new outfits.

Admittedly the photos may not get looked at much now – aside from the one in the commemorative sterling silver frame someone has spent €50 on – but fast-forward a decade and they’ll mean so much more, when babes-in-arms have grown into double-digit bruisers or, possibly, when curious kids start wondering what kind of celebration was held in their honour when they were born.

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