Orthodox Traditions: What Godparents Gift to a Child at Baptism

How Orthodox Godparents Choose the Right Gifts for a Baptism

In Orthodox Christianity, the sacrament of baptism is a vital and sacred ceremony, marking the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey. Central to this ritual are the godparents, who play a crucial role in the Child’s religious upbringing. They are expected to provide specific gifts, each carrying deep symbolic meaning.

What is the Most Important Gift from Godparents in Orthodox Baptism?

The primary gift from godparents at an Orthodox baptism is a baptismal cross. This cross need not be extravagant; its value lies not in material worth but in its spiritual symbolism. Traditionally, godmothers purchase crosses for girls and godfathers for boys, though some families choose to select a cross together. The cross might be gold, silver, or even simple wood, but its shape is essential. For infants, the cross should have rounded edges to prevent injury.

It’s critical that the cross, if not bought from a church, is blessed.

For the baptism, the cross is often presented on a chain or a simple cord. Ensure the clasp is secure and small, with the cord length appropriate for the Child. During the ceremony, it should easily slip over the Child’s head; adjustments can be made later.

Where Do Godparents Find the Appropriate Attire for the Baptized Child?

Godmothers are traditionally responsible for purchasing the baptismal cloth and clothing. This cloth called a ‘kryzhma,’ is wrapped around the child post-baptism. It should be pure white, with linen preferred in warmer months and terry cloth in colder seasons. Ideally adorned with Christian symbols and embroidery, it’s a cherished keepsake.

The godmother also gifts a baptismal outfit: a long white shirt and cap, typically made of cotton and decorated with embroidery, ribbons, and beads. While a cross is a vital element of this attire, it can be on the chest or back. The outfit should be blessed in the church, with some godparents choosing to handmake or embellish it themselves.

In larger churches; you can find ready-made baptismal sets, including the shirt, kryzhma, sometimes a cap, and a simple cross, already blessed for convenience.

What Additional Responsibilities Do Godparents Have During Orthodox Baptism?

The godfather typically bears the cost of the entire baptism ceremony. This includes any church fees and the organization of the subsequent celebration. This financial contribution underscores the godfather’s commitment to the Child’s spiritual welfare.

Additionally, godparents might include extra gifts like soft booties and baby leggings to complete the baptismal outfit. While these are not traditional, they add a practical and thoughtful touch to the ceremonial attire.

How do Godparents’ Roles and Gifts Differ in Other Countries?

In various Christian traditions around the world, the role of godparents and their gifts at baptism can vary significantly. For instance, in some Western traditions, godparents might give a Bible or a religious book, symbolizing their duty to guide the Child’s spiritual education. In some cultures, godparents are expected to contribute financially to the Child’s education or provide a savings bond as a long-term gift.

What is the Significance of These Varied Traditions in Different Cultures?

These diverse traditions underline the universal importance of godparents in a child’s religious and moral upbringing. Whether through symbolic gifts like the cross in Orthodox Christianity or practical contributions like educational funds, the underlying principle remains constant: godparents are entrusted with guiding the Child’s spiritual journey.

In countries where religious diversity is prevalent, it’s not uncommon to see an amalgamation of these traditions, where godparents might give a combination of religious, educational, and practical gifts, adapting to the specific needs and customs of the family.

To What Extent Do Modern Trends Influence Traditional Baptism Gifts?

In the modern world, where lifestyles and beliefs are constantly evolving, traditional practices like baptismal gifts from godparents are also experiencing changes. While the core values and symbols remain, there’s a growing trend towards more practical or personalized gifts.

How are Traditional Gifts Being Adapted in Contemporary Times?

For instance, instead of a traditional cross, some godparents might choose a more contemporary design or incorporate the Child’s birthstone. In addition to the baptismal outfit, they might also give a personalized keepsake, like an engraved photo frame or a custom-made blanket.

It’s essential to balance tradition with practicality.

This modern approach doesn’t diminish the religious significance of the gifts but rather adapts them to be more relevant and meaningful in today’s context. By blending traditional symbols with contemporary needs, godparents can offer gifts that honour the ceremony and serve a lasting purpose in the Child’s life.

In conclusion, while the specifics of what godparents gift at a baptism vary across Orthodox traditions and cultures, the essence remains the same. These gifts are symbolic tokens of the godparents’ commitment to the spiritual well-being and guidance of the Child. Whether adhering strictly to tradition or incorporating modern elements, the role of the godparent is a blend of honour, responsibility, and deep affection.


How Should Godparents Choose a Baptismal Cross for an Orthodox Baptism?

When selecting a baptismal cross, godparents should consider the age and safety of the Child. For infants, the cross should have rounded edges to avoid any harm. The material can vary from wood to precious metals like gold or silver. The focus should be on the symbolic value rather than the material worth. Having the cross blessed is also crucial, especially if it’s not purchased from a church. This blessing can be arranged at the local Orthodox Church before the baptism.

Where Can Godparents Find Appropriate Baptismal Attire for the Child?

Godparents can find baptismal attire in church shops, especially in larger churches, or through specialty stores. The attire typically includes a white baptismal shirt and cap, often made of cotton and adorned with Christian symbols. It’s important to ensure the fabric is comfortable for the baby and the size is appropriate. Some godparents choose to handmake or personalize these garments for a unique touch. If purchasing ready-made attire, it’s advisable to have it blessed in the church, aligning with the sacred nature of the ceremony.

What Additional Gifts Do Godparents Traditionally Provide in Orthodox Baptism?

Beyond the baptismal cross and attire, godparents traditionally provide a ‘kryzhma’ – a white cloth used to wrap the Child after the baptism. This cloth, symbolizing purity, should be made of linen or terry cloth, depending on the season. Embellished with Christian symbols, the erythema becomes a cherished keepsake. Some godparents might also include additional practical items like soft booties or baby leggings, although these are not traditional but add a thoughtful touch.

When Should Godparents Present Their Gifts to the Baptized Child?

Godparents typically present their gifts during the baptism ceremony. The cross and baptismal attire are often given before or during the ceremony to be used immediately. The erythema is used right after the baptismal rite when the Child is dressed. Other gifts, like keepsakes or additional clothing, can be given during the ceremony or the subsequent celebration. Godparents must coordinate with the Child’s parents to ensure a smooth and respectful presentation of gifts.