Living in Romania

Baby’s Christening in Romania: A HUGE Event – What to Expect & What to Do

Last month we had a pretty big event in our family, as our regular readers know: Baby Romanian’s christening party. I am not sure how this happens in other countries, but in Romania, the christening of a baby can be compared with a wedding: there can be hundreds of guests, there’s a huge party involved that usually lasts all night long and, in the end, a lot of money is spent by the parents to make this event as impressive and unforgettable as possible. (A lot of alcohol is consumed too, but that’s the fun part!)

We went through all that last month and even though it was, for me, a lot less stressful than the wedding was, there were still a lot of things to do: preparing the accommodation for our guests from other cities as they all need rooms to sleep in, arranging everything with the Church and making sure that we have everything we need there (as there are a lot of traditional things that have to be brought by the parents themselves) and finally setting everything up with the restaurant for the food, the music and preparing other traditional events during the party.

And now that everything’s over, I decided to write this guide to the Christening party in Romania – an event divided in two acts, each with its own rules and things to know. Hopefully it will be a fun ride for you as well as you will learn about some important Romanian traditions.

Since an image is better than 1,000 words, I am here to share a few with you pointing the most important stages during a Romanian Christening party – from our party, yay:

romanian christening 01
It’s a must to have some fancy clothing for the little fellow

For most of the ceremony that takes place at the Church (this is how you start the day), the Godfathers hold the baby.

romanian christening 02

In the church, all the things on the table you can see below are used during the christening: there’s a bottle of chrism – a bit of which goes on the baby’s head, there is some holy oil that they put in the water used for the Christening, the small scissors are used to cut a bit of hair (which the parents will hold onto forever) and the golden crosses and Bible are there to be kissed by the Godfathers at different moments during the ceremony – so you’d better hope nobody has the cold!

You can also notice in the background (will be a better image below) the special candle – it has to be held by the Godfather and generally it is decorated specifically for moment – we went for a cutesy little flower teddy that we liked so much!

After the priests read their part from the Bible, the baby is placed into the holy water and the Christening is complete.

Normally, the baby is supposed to be completely sank in the water – three times in a row, too – while the priest holds their nose so that they don’t breathe in water. This is pretty barbaric and shocking for the babies and as a result, more and more priests just put some water on the baby’s head, symbolically.

romanian christening 04

romanian christening 05

After the “bath” the baby is changed into a new set of clothes (the tradition has it that these have to be bought by the Godfathers, but we wanted to buy them ourselves) and he’s allowed to play with anything, as long as he remains happy:

romanian christening 03

After the Christening ceremony is over, everybody heads to the restaurant for the party – usually straight from the Church, but there might be a delay in some cases if the procession is too early.

At the restaurant, you are expected to have themed decorations and basically everything you’d get from a wedding. We even got some cutesy personalized paper napkins:

romanian christening 06

Just as it happens with the weddings, the party is started by the first dance where the parents and the baby have the scene.

However, since you can’t really do much choreography with an infant (there are people who Christianize their babies at 2 months) , the three will only dance alone for several seconds before being joined by the others and the party officially begins.

romanian christening 07

Later on, usually at midnight (but we opted for a day party, so they came at 7 PM, ha!) there is a special moment when fairies visit the baby to wish him well for a great destiny.

In Romanian, these fairies are called “Ursitoare” and the word basically means “the girls who decide the fate”.

The fairies moment is really nice and touching, actually
The fairies moment is really nice and touching, actually
The fairies sing and send their wishes while the parents try to hold the baby still :))
The fairies sing and send their wishes while the parents try to hold the baby still :))

And after three or four courses, plus cake, plus a lot of alcohol, the day is over. Not before you party like the rock star you are!

Me and the godfather enjoying some Nirvana
Me and the godfather enjoying some Nirvana

We went for a more modern approach to the whole thing and got a DJ for the music, but it’s still very common to bring a traditional Romanian band or singer who will perform traditional Romanian music (duuuh!) while the guests dance the “hora” – a traditional dance with complicated steps and many variations, something that I never managed to master.

To be honest, I am not really fond of the traditional Romanian music either and dancing the hora is boring in my opinion (basically, you hold hands with other guests and move in a circle for several minutes”) but it’s still extremely popular, even with the younger generation who, for some reason, love it.

Are you expected to bring gifts at a Christening party?

In the end, the Christening of a baby is an extremely important event in Romania and the second biggest party (after the wedding). The costs for everything are similar to those for a wedding and the tradition is for the guests to offer money to the baby/parents.

The biggest question people ask is “how much money to give the parents?” but the truth is that there’s no exact answer here. Normally, you are expected to pay the amount that would cover for your restaurant bill, as well as your part for the music, church, decorations and everything else. Then try to add a bit of extra for the parents to get a profit. Now, actually knowing how much these cost is the tricky part because the organizers don’t make this information public.

In the smaller cities, where the prices are really low, something around 50 Euros per person is generally considered acceptable, but the price goes up the fancier the party and the larger the city. Also, closer relatives and friends, as well as the Godparents are expected to offer more money than the average.

I would say that unless you really know the costs were higher or you want to offer a really nice amount of money to the family, something around 100 Euros should be more than enough for most Christening parties. Remember: you are not expected to sell an arm and a leg to offer a monetary gift, so just offer as much as you feel is fair (or you can afford) and enjoy the party.

This used to be extremely “profitable” back in the day, with people buying household items with the money made after the event (anything from a new car to kitchen appliances and vacations). Today, though, the money generally only covers the expenses for everything and it all evens up in the end, even if some offer less – because there are some who will always want to shine and offer more.

Have in mind that only the parents will know how much you’ve given them (since you usually put the money in an envelope), and if you don’t want to sign it, you can offer it as an anonymous gift. But everybody signs theirs, so you’d still be idetified if the parents really want that 🙂

In the end, in our case, what mattered the most was to have fun during our son’s Christening party and that we did. We were not expecting the people to give us any money (although all of them did because that’s how things around here go), but we were grateful that we didn’t have to pay by ourselves for feeding and entertaining the crowd for one whole day.

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  1. Oh my God, The baby is so cute ! I love the pictures, especially the family pic at the top. It looks like you had so much fun. Wow! It’s amazing that it costs almost as a wedding, but it’s. Ice that you get the money back. Thanks for sharing this. It’s. Ice to know that traditions are the same all over, same in Italy and Malta, they go all out for the christening. I can’t wait to meet the little fellow!

    1. I am glad you liked it! The top picture shows Baby Romanian with his Godfathers, actually – as they are considered the spiritual parents of the kid and the main characters of the Christening party 🙂 I didn’t know that it’s the same in other European countries, especially since we’re Orthodox and most of the Western Europe is Catholic. Apparently when it comes to parties, it’s all the same :))

      1. When l first clicked on the post, the topmost pic was of you, the wife and the are in a bow tie holding the baby on the left, with your arm around your wife no? Now, when l click the pic is in the middle . Maybe it just showed it randomly as a preview to the post and l didn’t notice, but the pic l mean is that one..:0))

      2. I’m going to Romania with a friend and her partner for her partner’s nephew’s Christening, she asked me because of the language barrier and at least she will have me so not depending on her partner having to be with 24/7 like the first time she went to Romania. I’m shocked to hear that I am expected to give €100 for a gift, (I have bought a gift, )to complete strangers who I have never met, it was my friends partner who suggested she see if someone would come.

  2. What a beautiful family you have, C!!! I wish Christenings were as important here as they are in Romania. They’re somewhat not a big deal here, although we did have parties for our kids with aunts, uncles and grandparents. Thanks so much for sharing about this: looks like it was a picture perfect event. You are blessed, my friend!

  3. Glad you guys had a great time. Baby Romanian is adorable. Good call on having the party earlier…well I know for me, Baby LRC gets very cranky when it gets closer to his bedtime. Having a cranky baby is no fun.

    1. Exactly our thoughts! We ended the party at 10 or 11 PM, when the baby was already at home sleeping, and many were expecting the party to begin at that hour. There are still many things that we have to adjust a little here in Romania :))

  4. “C”: Wow! That is quite an event! Baby “C” looks very natty in his checkered coat;-)
    My experience, here in the USA, is a quick annointing (or dunking depending on faith) by a priest and maybe a very little after-event (celebration) at home. Certainly NOTHING on the scale of Baby “C’s” fete! (BTW: Did Baby “C” get any toys? It looks like he was “into” that teddy bear(?) in front of the candle as pictured above.
    So, I see you and the godfather are great air-guitar players;-) Clapton rocks!
    Will we see the event on You Tube?
    Take care,
    ~Teil (USA)

    1. Hello, Teil! That Teddy Bear was made all out of flowers and I think it was the first time he saw one (at least from such a close range). But yes, he loves toys generally and turns everything into his toy 🙂 Unfortunately, he didn’t get any toys as gifts as the tradition is to only give money… but he did have a bag of them to enjoy at the party :)) And unfortunately, the event won’t be on YouTube. No free laughs for you guys :))

  5. Other then money what are some good gifts? My friends are Romanian, I’m having a hard time finding a good gift for their little girl that is getting baptized. My friends are extremely wealthy, so I think it would be less personal to give them money. Thank you for your experience, it is helping me understand a lot more what to expect.

    1. I really can’t help with this, Melina. I think that even wealthy people are used to just getting money. As for the gifts, try to think about something fun and useful for the baby…

  6. What a wonderful job you did describing and illustrating the Romanian christening tradition! Reading it I re-lived mine with my kids.

  7. Great article, it really helps me understand more about this tradition in Romania. My husband and I are invited to a friend’s baby baptism this weekend. I’m not local and my husband doesn’t know anything about his tradition here. Can I ask what is the average amount of money usually gift to this event? We don’t want to go overboard and over what we can afford but at the same time we don’t want to be un-appropriate. Thanks!

    1. Hello Cassandra,

      The amount of money depends a lot on the city. In more expensive cities (like Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara and so on) you would pay more than in smaller ones and a lot more than in villages, for example. There is no set amount, but the golden rule of thumb is to pay enough to cover for your “share” of organizing the event, the biggest price here being the menu. Prices also vary greatly here based on how classy the place you’re visiting is – menu ranging from 30 Euros per person to over 100. If you know the restaurant, a good idea is to google it and look at their menus – they usually show their wedding and baby baptism menu prices there. Add a little bit extra though, because there are other prices included (church, decorations, music – it’s more expensive if there’s a band playing, less for a DJ).

      Now to give you my personal opinion, if we’re talking about a regular event (so nothing very high class), something like 800 Lei or 200 Euros would normally be a good amount for such an event, for two people. If you have friends going to the event, don’t be shy and just ask them how much they’re giving – it’s what most Romanians do and they usually adjust down or up after they find out a few numbers.

  8. Extremely interested in your Christening article. My daughter is English and her husband Romanian,next year my grandson is being christened in Romania. I so wanted to buy his outfit but was told that traditionally God parents buy everything and it wasn’t allowed. I was told parents have little to do with his christening and it has to be done before he is a year old. My daughter was upset for us but understands the importance of traditions.
    Has this happened to any dual nationality parents

    1. Traditions are slightly different based on the area where the event is taking place and there are few things set in stone, it all depends on how open the parents are to changing things a bit or altering them a little. In our case, the Christening was made after the baby’s first anniversary, we bought all the clothes and so on. The most important thing is to enjoy the day!

  9. Hello J.E! Just one tiny detail my husband forgot. We actually choose the outfits and candles, BUT his godparents payed for them. I think they wanted to stick to the traditions more than us, though they weren’t too informed on the matters. We hated to ask for things or let them handle too many things, so we did most on our own. To be honest the outfit he was changed into had no other purpose than that day only. Babies grow fast and we didn’t go to any events that year. So I think you should buy something that really matters and your grandson will use more than once.

    And traditions are just that, traditions, not religious laws, so anyone can get baptized at any time. It is said you need to do it before 1 because he’ll get holly protection, or another silly tradition is that you can’t call the baby by his name until after baptizing, or you should not get them outside if he’s not baptized….as my husband mentioned, traditions differ on the areas you’re in, but almost every Romanian tradition is full of nonsense and superstitions that some choose to believe in, and others (us) don’t. The families, Romanian parents and grandparents, put GREAT pressure on the young parents, more than they should as they already are stressed with a new baby, so this is just something it needs to be done, the WAY it is said and set in stone (though I swear every year I’m hearing about traditions I’ve never heard of), and let them do it for THEIR piece of mind.

    Gifts like expensive jewelry, like a gold bracelet, or necklace, it can be a nice and from the heart gift. If you personalize it, even better, but ask your daughter first, maybe she will be afraid to let him wear it.

  10. Having been asked to be a godmother for a Romanian baby this has been really helpful to read, at first I had not understood just how huge an honour it is to be asked, so I’m even more overwhelmed and your explanations have given me more of an understanding of the tradition and not least the spiritual responsibility of the role.

  11. Makes me glad to not be part of a Romanian family. I’m a soccer referee and I could not imagine being told by someone that I couldn’t referee on a weekend because I was expected to be at some baby’s baptism ceremony. Especially if it was a baby I didn’t even care about (because I wouldn’t care at all).
    If I was Romanian I’d be trying to move up the FRF referee pathway the same as I’m trying to move up the US Soccer referee pathway. Nothing would interfere with my goals.

    1. It is not uncommon in such cases for the people who really don’t want to come but are “obliged” to be there to just offer a gift (usually money) before the event and say that they can’t be there. It’s all about priorities, and if in your case refereeing on a weekend is more important than attending to a family event – or whatever type of event – most people would understand. 🙂

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