Christening presents – where did the tradition come from?

Very recently, I was commissioned to make a Christening bracelet for a baby girl. The Children of Lir story was an important story to the family and as such one of my Children of Lir charms was to feature. It also included a garnet charm to represent the baby’s birthstone. I was very honoured to make such an important gift and I was very excited to be making something so tiny and cute. There’s something very special about making a piece that will stand the test of time and remind the person as they grow up about an important day that was celebrated by many in their lives. I still have my christening bracelet and I treasure my daughter’s and show her it every now and again. It got me thinking about where the tradition of Christening gifts came from…

Firstly, giving presents to mark special occasions isn’t a new thing. Giving gifts has been used for thousands of years to mark special occasions and rites of passage.

In pre-Christianity, the importance of birth, marriage, coming of age and even the changing of seasons were all marked by giving presents and big celebrations. As Christianity spread and became more popular, it embraced some pagan traditions. It is known that gifts were given to newborns and children in pagan times. However, the Christian tradition of giving presents to newborns soon became attached to the Christian story of the Three Wise Men / Magi bestowing Gold, Myrrh and Frankenscence on the baby Jesus at Christmas.

Today’s tradition stems from the fact that Christening presents started off as small items of value that were kept as an investment for the child’s future. We all know the saying “he/she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth” – isn’t it interesting that this saying comes from the old-tradition of giving Apostle Spoons in Tudor England.

In Ireland and elsewhere today, the godparents normally buy a gift for the newborn baby – it’s normally a christening bracelet or the baby’s shawl. I come from a family of knitters and crocheters and the making of baby shawls was something I grew up with. I also knit a baby shawl for my own son with his name and birth date embroidered on it (it almost took me the entire pregnancy to knit!) but it was a very special day that I was asked to make a sterling christening bracelet incorporating my designs for somebody else’s little girl……