The birth of a baby is one of the biggest-deal things that can happen in a family and in a community, and for much of history people all over the world have found ways to mark this momentous life event.
But today, in the United States, as affiliation with organized religion is on the decline, parents who want some meaningful way to “officially” welcome their child into the world are often at loose ends. If you don’t have a strong connection to a particular religion – if you don’t want to do a baptism or other traditional religious rite – then how do you mark the birth of your child? How do you ceremonially give them their name? How do you officially welcome them into your family, your community, and the world?
Most of us non-religious folk have thought there was just no option for us. Take me for example. Having “missed out” on baptism as an infant, my stepfather rectified the situation by “baptizing” me, along with the family dog, from the dog dish during a visit home from college.
So what’s a regular, secular or spiritual-but-not-religious family to do?
Enter the Baby Welcoming (aka Baby Naming) Ceremony.
I just had the great privilege and joy of presenting a baby welcoming ceremony for this beautiful child, my nephew Cole, and his parents, my sister and brother-in-law, Cara and Eric.
Here are some highlights from this intimate family ceremony:
Cara and Eric made such sweet vows to their son, using the words from the “Parenting Prayer” by Rabbi Rami Shapiro, followed by the “First Words Prayer” from Welcoming Ways by Andrea Gosline. Not a dry eye to be had!
We are humbled by the awesome responsibility of this moment.
We are filled with joy and trembling,
As we contemplate the tasks that lie before us:
Modeling love, teaching courage,
Instilling honesty, integrity and responsibility.
May we come to embody the virtues we teach,
And may our child see in us,
The values and behaviors we hope to see in him.
We are your parents and we will care for you.
We promise to reveal the adventure of life.
We promise to love you unconditionally.
We promise to learn from your challenges and inspirations.
We promise to tell you the simple truth.
We promise to pay attention to each of your small moments.
We promise to slow to your wonderful pace.
We promise to embrace your hopes and dreams.
We promise to open our hearts fully to your love.
We promise to strive to be a happy family.
Then Eric and Cara shared vows with each other:
I promise to make the best choices to support Cole and our family as we travel this path together.
I promise to be the best partner I can be as we nurture this young life.
I promise to cherish the ever-growing bond our family has built and to love you both always.
Next we did a community water blessing. Each guest was given a stone to hold and we took a moment of silence to think about a blessing or wish to give to Cole. Then each guest was invited to come forward and share (or silently hold in their heart) their blessing or wish, and then place their stone in a glass bowl with water. As the bowl filled with stones, all of our best wishes infused the clear, sparkling water. And then Cole’s toes were dipped in – letting all our good wishes wash over him and soak in.
And of course, a family with Greek heritage must conclude with an ouzo toast! Yassas!
There are as many powerful ways to welcome your baby as there are families. If you’re thinking about doing something like this in your own family, know that the sky’s the limit and everything is possible!