What Happens at a Christening Ceremony?

Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

During a christening ceremony, parents and godparents bring a child before a minister or priest, and water is poured over the child’s head to cleanse away original sin. Parents and godparents vow that they intend to be a positive influence in the child’s life. A certificate is then signed by the minister or priest, documenting the ceremony. A party typically takes place afterwards, and gifts are given to the family.

Christening ceremonies are also known as baptisms, and the process varies among Christian groups. During the ceremony, godparents also pledge their intention to care for the child if something happens to the parents. Each member carries a candle throughout the ceremonial rite. The baptism certificate serves as a sentimental piece for the parents and is considered an official document.

The importance of baptisms varies by denomination. For instance, Lutherans maintain that baptism is a mandate from God, while Methodists believe it is more symbolic and does not literally wipe away sin. Christening is considered a holy sacrament within the Catholic Church, since Jesus Christ adopted the ceremony to give grace to the initiated. The amount of water that is used depends on the sect. Sprinkles of water are used in some cases, but partial or full immersion in water is preferred by other church groups.