Preparing for Your Godchild’s Greek Orthodox Baptism

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A Godparent’s Guide to Baptizing your Godchild in the Greek Orthodox Church  

So congratulations are in order, you have been asked to be the Godparent of a friend or relative’s newborn child. Being a child’s godparent is a very important distinction, and one that should not be taken lightly. A child’s Godparent plays a crucial role in the newborn’s life, not only on the day of the baptism, but for the rest of the child’s life.

As is the case with many important celebrations in the Greek Orthodox Church, there are many things to prepare for the upcoming event. This of course goes well beyond the planning of the perfect centerpieces for the reception following the church service. Since the Godparent is such a central figure in the highly symbolic baptismal service, there are many things that you take responsibility for in the process.

As a child’s Godparent you take on the responsibility of the child’s spiritual upbringing. The relationship between Godparent and Godchild is as close as one can become to being a child’s family member. Traditionally, the Godparent would be the one to name the child, by giving them a Greek and Christian name that is used for the first time in the baptismal service. However, this is often no longer the case, especially in America, as it is the child’s parents who name their child.

But not to worry, there are still plenty of things for you to prepare for the upcoming baptism. This includes many of the items used in the service that are brought to the priest before it begins.

These items traditionally include the following:

  • 1 Gold Cross & Chain
  • 1 Set of New White Clothing for After the Service
  • 1 Small Bottle of Olive Oil
  • 1 Bar of Soap
  • White Hand Towels
  • 1 Large White Bath Towel
  • 1 White Sheet
  • 1 Large Baptismal Candle
  • 3 or more White Candles for the Procession

For the large white baptismal candle, decorations customarily include a large bow of ribbon and tulle with streamers and even artificial flowers. Appropriately blue is used for a baby boy, while pink is used for a baby girl.

In addition to the above items, the Godparent also has several tasks following the baptism. You should give the baby his or her ‘first’ bath following their baptism, as well as washing the baptismal sheet, clothes and towel. It is important to remember that the water from the bath contains the holy oil, and it should not be dumped down the drain. People commonly pour the outside on a place that cannot be stepped on, such as trees or even the corner of your house.

Many times the Godparents place all of the items from the baptism in a box, which is then given to your Godchild’s family. Following the baptism, the Godparent should also take their Godchild to church to receive communion for three consecutive Sundays. It is important to bring the baptismal candle with you and light it for communion.

There is inevitably a level of stress that is associated with any big celebration, especially one as important as a child’s baptism, but not to worry it is completely manageable. Despite this, getting the opportunity to be a Godparent is a great honor, one that truly lasts a lifetime, so make sure to enjoy the baptism and new relationship you have with your new Godchild!

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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