Jeanne Rathbone


Baby naming ceremonies are the humane alternative to christenings!

According to wikipedia a christening of a baby is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism as opposed to credobaptism! In Christianity, baptism “immersing”, “performing ablutions“, i.e., “ritual washing”  is the ritual act, with the use of water, by which a person is admitted to membership of the Church.

In effect, a christening is an exorcism – it is to rid a baby of original sin and the devil.   HOW CHARMING! Apparently, it is also the New Testament equivalent of circumcision! Catholics are the keenest to have this religious ritual performed on new babies.

I checked out the website BABY CENTRE  and found a section WHY HAVE A CHRISTENING ?

Why have a christening?

If you would like your child to be brought up as a Christian, then a christening is the first step.
However, these days, faith is not always the only motivation. A christening is also a great way to get the whole family together to celebrate your new arrival. Being a member of a church could also help your child get a place at the excellent local church school further down the line!

While some clergy are quite relaxed about the parents’ own church attendance, others will expect to see you and your child on a regular basis before and after the christening.

Ruby Hardwell, a mother of three girls, recently moved to a small village and talked to the vicar about the christening of their youngest, Sisley. He said as long as we made it to church twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, he’d be happy!”


So, there you have it.  This lying immoral behaviour is totally acceptable and commonplace. This is the devious, hypocritical and snobbish reasons for having this particular religious ritual of baptism – immersion in water- performed on an unfortunate baby! The parents and the colluding clergy have no shame. The churches depend on children as fodder for their survival.

Humanist baby namings are the alternative to this enforced religious practice. Humanist celebrants provide ceremonies for those who do not have religious beliefs. We do all the rite-of-passage ceremonies of Hatchings, Matchings and Dispatchings but people can conduct their own ceremonies.

Naming ceremonies are individual and personal and usually include spoken contributions from parents, grandparents, others/children and mentors/oddparents after an introduction by the celebrant and the formal naming of the child. Humour is important in any Humanist ceremony. As namings are the only child-cenred rite-of-passage ceremony it will often include contributions from children and readings/songs for children

I also strongly recommend that parents get a nameday book for their little one and invite all those coming to bring along something for it so that that she/he  has something to look back on and cherish in years to come, eg a poem,  a quotation, acrostic*, piece of advice, a bit of family history/lore, a recipe, information/memory of the little one’s parents, a list of their favourite things, a promise, a wish, a photo, picture etc. An acrostic is a little piece using the initials of the baby’s name and children are very good at writing and performing them. I think it is interesting to get handwritten contributions especially from grandparents and family members.

For couples who have not had a wedding ceremony then there is the practical option of a two-in-one Naming/Wedding combined. This I promote as the cheap, hassle-free wedding! This is the ceremony that I believe will become very poular in the future. A Wedding/Naming Ceremony is the sensible, rational, personal, inexpensive and simple option and the easiest to organise. Check out the Humanist two-in-one wedding/naming ceremony  page in this blog.

For families/couples who have NOT got around to holding any ceremony when they have completed their family then we have the Family Dedication Ceremony!!  Again, this is an economical  and simple choice.

We do have booklets for namings “New Arrivals” and for weddings “Sharing the future” which can be ordered through the BHA website which can be helpful and useful. However, I think that what is best is not to to use a formulaic ceremony but to get as many people as possible to contribute and speak at the ceremony and all others bringing along a contribution for the baby’s book. Sometimes, people get so inspired with the suggestion list above that they end up with a considerable contribution for the book and a shorter piece to say at the ceremony. It is surprising how, once you have got your family and friends enthused, they enter in to the spirit of it with funny, poignant and entertaining contributions.

We do, of course, encourage everything to be written down as this can prevent rambling, but also you get something more interesting because it has been given great consideration. It also is helpful to those who are a little uneasy about speaking more formally before an assembled group. I do say that the occasion is not a corporate presentation but a baby naming and child centred ceremony where there is no pomposity as the children are likely to be lively and occasional heckling is inevitable!

We often conclude with the adults partaking of bubbly and the children and kidults blowing bubbles, letting of poppers, lighting safe sparklers and banging percussive instruments! After the toast there is usually feasting, music, children’s entertainment and convivial conversation.

This is a picture of Lauren on her name day at Syon House.

People can organise their own ceremonies without having a Humanist Celebrant. It is best, however, to have an MC and an agreed programme/list of contributions etc.

A typicl order of ceremony would be.

Introduction, welcome and explanation for the ceremony, the form it will take with contributions from parents/grandparents/others/children and the appointment of mentors/oddparents.

FORMAL NAMING of the child. Sometimes a symbolic gesture of  lighting of candles, more usually I kiss the baby on behalf of all those present!

The PARENTS speak –stating their hopes for their little one, making promises to them, relating the time leading up to their birth and their arrival, explanation of the names chosen etc.

GRANDPARENT’S contribution. This might include some family lore, thoughts on been made grandparents, memories of the parents when they were children, a favourite family poem/reading/musical tribute etc.

OTHERS. This section may include something from aunts/uncles/cousins/friends/singing.

The appointment of the mentors who are usually called ODDPARENTS. They are people who have been chosen to play a special part in a child’s life. The parents would probably mention why they have chosen the oddparents. The child, I reckon, has a right to know why these people have been chosen for them as one assumes they were not chosen at random out of a hat! Perhaps, one day a couple may well decide to do just that!

The oddparents would then speak. They may have some advice, warnings, memories of the parents, promises, hopes, wishes etc. all expressed with humour, of course. Again, I have witnessed some wonderful contributions that have been both funny and emotional.

I would probably reiterate the invitation for contributions for the child’s NAME DAY BOOK as these will provide a lasting and fascinating memento of the occasion when a group of people came together to celebrate that child. I also suggest to the parents that they include a section telling their child how they came to be without the biological details. This STORY SO FAR will tell the child how two individuals, with their unique characteristics met, fell in love and set up home together. Every story is special and a little magical. The Nameday Book will be something to cherish in years to come.


I think that these ceremonies are very important in our changing and fragmented society as so many people no longer adhere to religious beliefs and rituals. I think that a child’s arrival is a momentous event and should be celebrated with a ceremony and they should be given the opportunity to have oddparents especially appointed to play a part in their lives.

As we become more secular Humanist ceremonies will become the norm and so they should.  Baby namings and combined naming/weddings have it all – laughter and tears, a celebration of family, unconditional love, parents, grandparents, relatives, children and friendship as well as music, feasting balloons, bubbles and bubbly. I love them, as you can probably gather.

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