CRETAN BAPTISM

  

The Baptism of a baby marks the moment the child becomes a Christian. One of the most important roles in the ceremony is that of the 'koumbaros' (godparent) and to be appointed as a 'koumbaros' is to receive a great honour. Often the best man at the wedding becomes the godparent. Traditionally the Baptism takes place when the child is around 12 months old. One reason for this might be because the church considers the woman impure for forty days after the birth, during this time she is not allowed to enter the church. The main participants in the ceremony are the priest, the 'koumbaros' and the baby. The parents are really only observers.

    

The sacrament begins in the Church where the parents hand the child over to the godparent. At that point, the godparent speaks on behalf of the child and denounces Satan and recites the Creed. Then, the priest, the parents and the godparent walk towards the front of the church where a woman (usually the grandmother) takes the baby to undress and wrap him/her in a large towel. The priest blesses the water in the font, and adds to it the oil that the godparents have brought. Then he takes the baby and rubs him/her with the oil and water. Then he immerses the baby in the font three times symbolising the three days that Christ spent in his tomb. While immersing the baby in the font, the priest is pronouncing the baby's name along with the name of the Trinity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The priest then takes the baby out of the water and gives him/her to the godparent in who is holding the white sheet and towel. The priest anoints the baby with 'myrrh' (oil that has been blessed by the Patriarch) and cuts three locks from the baby's hair. The priest also blesses the baby's clothes and then the baby is redressed by the grandmother in the Christening outfit provided by the 'koumbaros'.

   
The priest then places a gold cross and chain on the baby and the godparent takes the baby and light a large candle and a few small candles. The small candles are usually given to children to hold. They all then walk around the font three times symbolising the dance of joy. The baby then receives Holy Communion for the first time. When the ceremony is over, the parents kiss the hand of the godparent and receive their baby and all relatives and friends wish them 'Na sas zisi' which means "life to him/her". During the ritual the child is immersed naked 3 times and a small lock of hair is cut from the child head. The female relatives then dress the child in a completely new outfit of cloths.
  
When naming a child, the parents give the first son the name of the paternal grandfather and the second the name of the maternal grandfather, the same applies to daughters. At the end of the ceremony everybody receives a small gift of sugared almonds and everybody files past the parents and grandparents to kiss or shake hands. It is traditional to say to all of the family ‘May he live for you’.
 
The first son is named after the fathers father, second son after the mothers father, first daughter after fathers mother and second daughter after mothers mother. If the couple has more children the godfather or godmother will decide the name, often naming the child after himself or herself. Or the child will be named after the saint on which day he or she was born.

A couple who have a daughter first might choose to give her the female version of the name of the grandfather.
 

Following the ceremony is a celebration either at a house or a restaurant. This celebration can range from a small gathering with cake and coffee to a huge meal with plenty of food and entertainment.

For the three days following the baptism the baby should not be bathed. The water from the first bath after the Baptism Ceremony should be used to water flowers. For the three Sundays following the Baptism the baby receives communion dressed in his/her christening outfit. Usually the godparent takes the baby for Communion and someone else follows holding the lit Baptism candle. 

It is customary in some parts of Greece for the godparent to baptize all girls or all boys because traditionally a man and a woman that have the same godparent should not marry because in the eyes of the Church they are brother and sister. In some other parts of Greece usually on the islands, the godparents' children cannot get married to the godchild because in the eyes of the Church they are brother and sister also.

The duties of the godparent after the ceremony do not stop there. The godparent must offer to his/her godchild every Easter an Easter Candle and offer a gift on his/her Name Day. In Greece, it is customary also for the godparent to buy a new pair of shoes for the child every Easter. But above all of these the godparent have a spiritual responsibility. 

 

 
 
 
 
 

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