When I was born, in the 1960’s, almost everyone had their baby “Christened” even if they didn’t go to church; or even believe in the Christian God. In the 90’s when I had my own children ministers were asking why people wanted their babies “done” and their answers were interesting.
Some seemed to think it was like a vaccine; “just in case there’s a God we want them to go to heaven” they answered. Some were doing it as a result of pressure from their own parents, some just assumed it was something everybody did and some thought it was a great excuse for a big family get together.
What most failed to acknowledge was that the birth of a child is an amazingly important event in the lives of all involved and is a rite of passage that many cultures have been observing for thousands of years, totally independent of the Christian ritual of baptism.
In my early teens the first tv version of Alex Haley’s novel Roots was made starring Geordie from Star Trek (LeVar Burton) as the main character Kunta Kinte. I remember very vividly an early scene where baby Kunta was raised aloft by his father who gave thanks for his birth and presented him to the world.
In the 90’s Mufasa did pretty much the same thing to baby Simba at the start of The Lion King and watching with my young children I was immediately reminded of the scene from Roots.
Choosing their name is the first gift a parent gives to a child. Choosing close friends or family who agree to step in and help if anything were to happen to you is not just an honour but a great responsibility for them.
There is no reason why a secular celebration of new life can’t recreate the traditional themes of naming the child and promises by the “Godparents” (often referred to as “Guideparents” in a non-religious setting) but also include thanking Grandparents and inclusion of the baby’s brothers and sisters who can also promise to play their part in raising the new little one.
I believe there is no singular more life-changing event than having a child and it makes sense to share the joy and shout their name from the rooftops.