Monday, September 07, 2009
A christening in Athens
Last week I attended the christening of my friends Peter and Eleni's youngest son, Philip George. Christenings are important occasions in Greece, often attended by up to 100 family and friends.
The honoured guest of the day is the baby's godparent, who takes centre stage during the service. It is considered a great honour to be asked to be a godfather or godmother, as the godparent has a special role in the child's life.
In Greek Orthodox tradition, babies are covered in oil (yes, I am serious) by the godparent and then immersed in water by the priest conducting the service. As a result, baptisms tend to be noisy affairs and the godparent needs nerves of steel.
Little Philip's godmother was super calm throughout the service, even when the baby attempted to scream the place down. He was happy to be covered with oil, but didn't much like the dunking!
The godparent provides a full outfit to be worn after the service, including underwear and shoes. He or she also brings a gold cross and chain for the baby, and mini-broches for the guests to wear to signify that they have witnessed the baptism.
After the service, the parents offer favours and cakes to the guests. Eleni and Peter offered ice-cream in three flavours (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry) and cute little vases of vanilla paste, which came with their own mini spoons.
The favours were little bracelets with a frog motif.
It was really hot that day, 39°C in the sunshine (102°F), so those who stayed around after the service sought the shade of the trees. Ice-cream proved a popular choice.
Young Philip took a little nap after the dunking ordeal, but he woke up in time for the post-service pictures and was soon running around with his elder brother and friends.