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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Harrison

Naming Ceremonies - what's it all about

Updated: Jul 27, 2018

Recently I have been asked to carry out two naming ceremonies for parents whose children both

had difficult starts in life. Both sets of parents thought long and hard about what they wanted to call

their newborn. For one family it was about the family names and traditions and for the other it was

about the meaning of the name itself.

The one thing they had in common was that they both felt that actually giving the child their name in some form of ceremony was really important to them. Neither are religious but both felt that apart

from life itself the name you give your child is going to be part of their identify for the rest of their

life (probably!)

I have been called Alex all my life, but my full name is Alexandra and it is only now at the age of

(cough) 51 that I have started to use it. I have nicknames (Lexi, Aunti Lala) which I love but only

recently have I chosen to adopt my full name. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to accept

my proper name – and had I been born a boy I would be Alexander so my parents were quite clear on my name before I was born. My sister was without a name for six weeks! I will still be called Alex but I am enjoying being Alexandra as well!

So what is a naming ceremony? According to Wikipedia ‘A naming ceremony is the event at

which an infant, a youth, or an adult is given a name or names. The timing can vary from mere

days after birth to several months or many years afterwards’. It can also be part of a welcoming

ceremony for families who are joining together or perhaps are adopting a child.

Naming ceremonies are used across all types of different religions, not just Christian. Some happen

on a specific day after a child is born, for example, in Hinduism the child is named on the 12th day in a ceremony called Namkaran, and in Islam the baby is named on the 7th day by the parents.

In England, the trend is moving away from the traditional baptism. According to an article in The

Guardian last September “More than half UK population has no religion”. And, of course, we have

many mixed heritage families now that may wish to have a ceremony that combines different

cultural aspects.

In the UK, apart from a Christening (or baptism), or other key religious naming ceremony there are

two other recognised types of naming ceremonies, both led by a celebrant. A Humanist ceremony

where there is absolutely no religious content or a civil ceremony which can include some religious

or spiritual content if you want.

When I write a naming ceremony I like to spend time with the parents getting to know their

baby/child’s story. The dreams and aspirations for their child. Who the significant adults are and

what their role will be. What sort of symbolic action would they want (there are many, and you cancreate your own!). For example, I am performing a ceremony soon where we will blend together different colour sands to represent the unity of the family. The parents have written their own special vows and promises and the ceremony will finish with a piece of music written especially for the baby (the parents are musicians!). But you may not want anything symbolic

A naming ceremony should be about what you want for your child. To welcome them to your family

and friends in a way that is right for you as a parent.

As a celebrant I guide my couples through creating a very personal ceremony that incorporates the essence of them and reflects their values. I have heard some wonderful stories, some deeply loving and others of just pure joy.

But one thing is definite. They are all completely different. Unique. And this is why every ceremony is so special no matter why you have chosen to have one.

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