Orthodox Baptism



Children are baptized between 8 and 40 days after birth if they are healthy. If the infant is sick it is baptized immediately. The baptism takes place at the church in the "pronaos ", or  a room especially-equipped for baptisms.    In some cases, if the infant is close to death, the priest may baptize the baby at its home or the hospital, wherever it is located.  The souls of unbaptized babies can not enter paradise but neither do they go to hell because they did not commit any sins.   Their souls go to a dimly lit area, "Limbo", between day and night, waiting for the Last Judgment.

The godparents are the spiritual parents of the newly-baptized child.   They must be of the Orthodox faith.  They are 'crowned' in the church, and even if they may be young unmarried persons, they must still be believers. The godparents must provide their godson or goddaughter with a set of new clothes, diapers and blankets for the baptism.   Each godparent has a special candle which is beautifully decorated with flowers and a hankerchief or tissue for the baby's mother.

The water container in which the baptism occurs is called "cristelnitza" (the baptismal font) and comes from the word Histos (Christ).   The "Cristelnitza" symbolizes three things: the body of the church where we are born again, the spiritual bath where the baby may be cleansed of 'original sin', and the ancestral tomb in which we bury our former selves.


The baby is submerged in the baptismal font three times ---  on behalf of the Holy Trinity, and also recalling the stay of Christ for three days and three nights in the tomb.   Blessed oil coats the body of the baby and represents God's mercy for man.   A tiny cross-shaped cutting of the baby's hair means that the baby is getting rid of the creature that it was.  The white canvas "crisma" with which the baby is wrapped after baptism represents spiritual purity, and the lit candle which is at the side of the baby symbolizes the light of Christ which illuminates the way of life for all of us.

After the baptism ceremony takes place is the"cumatria",  a feast held for the godparents, the baby's family, and family friends.    Musicians are also invited.  The guests bring gifts for the baby or money, saying, if it's a girl: "take this money to buy a necklace, earrings, a pretty dress, shoes, etc."  And for a boy: "take this money to buy him clothes, a bicycle, toys, etc."

In the evening after the baptism, the baby gets its first bath so that the blessed oil may be removed.   It is traditional to place basil and flowers in the baby's bath water so that the baby will be attractive, particularly if it's a girl; wheat is placed in the bath water so that the baby will grow to be honest; a piece of bread is placed so that the baby will never lack for food throughout its life; coins are used so that the child shall be rich; feathers to make the child light as a feather; holy water to be pure and clean; sugar so that the child will be gentle and generous.



After the bath,  the water is sprinkled on a young tree (apple, pear, pine, etc.) so that the baby grows, beautiful and healthy, just as the tree being watered

updated  06-05-2017

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