Baby naming ceremonies become more popular

Parents are celebrating the birth of their child with baby naming ceremonies.
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Parents are celebrating the birth of their child with baby naming ceremonies.

James Ian Geoffrey Evans was celebrated high up in Marlborough's hills, on an airstrip overlooking his family's Waihopai Valley high country farm.

Aged almost 1, Jimmy won't remember his naming ceremony but for those who know him best, it was a chance to gather together and formally celebrate the newest member of the family.

In the ceremony, Jimmy's parents Stephanie Ginders and David Evans recognised Jimmy's godparents, and shared their joy of welcoming him into the family.

Stephanie says the ceremony was led by celebrant Heather Sorensen and had a semi-religious tone without being too formal. It was also a rare opportunity to celebrate Jimmy together, rather than visiting individually as often happens after a baby is born.

"It was a lot of organising, but it was nice that everyone could come together."

Years ago, it was standard for families to gather in a church for a christening or baptism.

Marlborough celebrant Heather Sorensen, left, conducts a naming ceremony for her grandson Toby. His parents are Andrew ...
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Marlborough celebrant Heather Sorensen, left, conducts a naming ceremony for her grandson Toby. His parents are Andrew and Nadia Sorensen.

Now, naming ceremonies are slowly growing in popularity as an alternative to a completely religious event, says Heather, who conducted her first naming ceremony in 2012.

"It's about celebrating and welcoming a new baby into a new family - the expression 'it takes a village to raise a child', basically that's it. You have an opportunity to celebrate, bring friends and family together, get godparents or sponsors, so that everybody is celebrating that new child but also saying, 'yes, we want the best for this child and we all need to do our best towards that happening'."

The ceremonies, usually for babies aged between 4 and 10 months, may include a reading, and godparents or sponsors may take a public vow that they support the child and parents.

Heather meets with the family beforehand to discuss what they want, and then leads the formal part of the ceremony.

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She led a naming ceremony for her grandson, Toby and his parents Andrew and Nadia Sorensen "which was rather special".

The Auckland couple held a "relaxed and informal" ceremony with family and friends in their backyard, followed by drinks and afternoon tea.

"I love [naming ceremonies]. We hear of so much doom and gloom and to get together in a really happy situation - what better reason to celebrate."

Another Marlborough celebrant, Jacqui Leslie, conducts two to three naming ceremonies a year and says most are "reasonably traditional" and held at home with immediate family and friends.

Special touches she has seen include a candle-lighting ceremony, taking hand and feet prints of the baby, planting a pohutukawa tree, books for guests to write messages and poems as a keepsake, and decorations such as flowers, toys, teddy bears and balloons.

"They're just a wonderful occasion. It really is just a celebration of the birth of a child and they're just fantastic to be a part of, it's really special. It's nice to get to know the families and what children mean to them."

 - The Marlborough Express

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