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