Our lovely TCD Celebrant and Resident Blogger, Katie Keen, talks to us about Naming Ceremonies, from their history to Fairy-UnGodly Parents! (Yes there is such a thing!). As more families are choosing to hold non-religious, personal Baby Naming Ceremonies for their children, rather than taking the route of a traditional baby baptism or Christening, Celebrant Katie Keen takes a look at how these ceremonies developed.
Over to you Katie!
Thanks, Jennifer. So let's start with the history of Naming Ceremonies
There have been secular end-of-life celebrations since the very first Humanist funerals in the 1890s, and The British Humanist Association (now known as Humanists UK) were the first to offer ‘new life celebrations’ to families as an alternative to the church.
However, the concept of civil ‘baby naming’ or ‘welcoming’ ceremonies was only introduced as recently as 1998 by the Registration Service in England and Wales, who offered these services primarily at Register offices or approved licensed venues.
There are now hundreds of professionally trained Celebrants across the UK who create and deliver personalised, family-focused tailored naming ceremonies for new parents. These naming days typically take place in family homes, village halls or hotels, allowing parents to not only celebrate the birth of their child but to introduce him or her to their wider family and friends.
In recognition that many modern families aren’t at all religious, but would still like to have a meaningful celebration to welcome their new baby or child, the obvious choice is a naming ceremony. The best thing about holding a naming ceremony for your son or daughter is the breadth of choice and personalisation there is when it comes to its wording, content and symbolism.
The beauty of a Celebrant-led baby naming is that you are free to include anything you like, even a bible reading, prayer or blessing if that’s your choice. Humanist naming ceremonies Celebrants do not include religion in their ceremonies, however a family or friend may read a bible quote or such if you choose.
Most naming days are held when the baby reaches 6-9 months old or perhaps to coincide with his or her first birthday. It’s fun to name twins or siblings within a joint welcoming ceremony – and a very good excuse for a party, bubbly and plenty of cake!
There’s no typical baby naming or welcoming script, as all will be written from scratch. But as well as officially naming the child, a Celebrant will offer parents the opportunity to explain the reasons behind the child’s name, perhaps tell the story of the baby’s birth, as well as inviting relatives to make promises to him or her. Blowing bubbles or having a nursery rhyme singalong makes for a fun finale!
The appointment of Guardians is also a popular addition. Just like Godparents, these might be family members or good friends of the couple, who are chosen to play a special role in the child’s life as they grow.
There are no rules to say you can’t use the term Godparent as it’s so recognisable, but there are also many alternatives; if Guardian sounds too official or Mentor too strict, Sponsor might feel a bit like money is changing hands! A popular choice is the moniker Guide Parent or Guiding Parent.
A more spiritual approach could see parents nominating a child’s Guiding Star or Guardian Angel, and we all know plenty of Honorary Aunties and Uncles in extended families and friendship groups. Supporting Adult, Special Adult or even the rather sweet Friend-Parent, as coined by Agony Aunt Claire Rayner, are good choices too.
Some of the more unusual alternative Godparent names that Celebrants have come across in naming ceremonies are Sparent, Odd-Parent and even God-less-Parent. Or who likes the idea of being a Fairly Ungodly-Mother?
The traditional role of a Godparent is to guide a child along its spiritual path.
But a child’s Guardian or Odd Parent plays a far more significant role: they take the form of a special adult in that child’s life who can offer support without being too deeply involved with the day-to-day tangles of parenting like the eating of vegetables or the completion of homework!
Guardians are primarily friends who share the same values as the parents, promising to provide sanctuary for the child in times of difficulty, as well as being a caring and loving influence to the wider family. Parents may appoint just a couple of key people, or as many half a dozen, creating a diverse team of friends, all with their own special skills and attributes, giving the child a “go-to-Guide-Parent” for most situations in their life!
For more advice check out our Ceremony guide for Naming Ceremonies.
The Complete Guide to Baby Naming Ceremonies by Becky Alexander.
New Arrivals – A Practical Guide to Non-Religious Baby Namings by Jane Wynne Willson & Robert Ashby, British Humanist Association
Photo credit: www.chrisshoebridge.co.uk
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