Like in many countries around the world, Christenings and Baptisms in Romania are a cherished affair and mark the first big celebration in a baby’s life. After the large guest list and party comes the importance of dressing the baby. Traditionally, the baby has a minimum of two outfits - tradition forms a big part of the celebration and various rituals and customs are introduced during the church ceremony and the elaborate after party.
We were lucky enough to dress little Max for his special day in Romania and caught up with mum Alecsandra Pap to talk us through her outfit choices and tell us more about her family’s special customs and how they chose to celebrate the big day.
All images by @carmensimocphotography
Follow Alecsandra on | Instagram
17 Sep 2019
It seems a while ago now but congratulations on Max’s Christening!
Thank you! Indeed, it does feel like Max’s Christening took place ages ago, although it’s so fresh in our memories and hearts. It seems like every time we're planning an event, taking time to organise it and looking forward to it, it all goes away too quickly! We Christened Maximilian in May as we wanted him to grow a bit older and also to hold the event towards the end of spring, so we can enjoy the good weather! Max was 8 months at that time and it’s rare to see babies Christened at that age in our religion as it usually takes place 40 days after the birth of the baby. We couldn’t travel at that time as it was winter and there was quite a lot of snow in Transylvania, where we chose to have the Christening. We also had to wait for the end of lent as the Church doesn't encourage Christenings during this time... I think it’s mostly regarding the party, as lent is a time of fasting, moderation and praying.
How do you like to dress Max - do you have a signature style for him?
I usually dress Max quite classy, simple, yet elegant - it’s also how I like to dress myself, so I tend to apply the same style to him. I normally choose neutral or pastel colours, which also suit him too and when I started to look for Christening outfits, I kind of knew already what I was looking for.
It’s tradition for the baby to have two outfits as they are changed after the ‘bath’ which occurs during the ceremony in the church. What outfits did you choose for Max?
Yes, it's a tradition at Orthodox Christenings to have two outfits for the baby. During the baptism, the child is dressed in a new, white outfit. It absolutely needs to be white because this symbolises purity and rebirth. Once the baptism is complete, they experience a 'new life' as Orthodox Christians because they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the outfit offers a visual representation of this. Therefore, for the church ceremony, we chose an adorable luxury silk baby suit from Sarah Louise as it’s made in a gorgeous ivory silk with pale blue trim around the square collar and long sleeves with a blue bow on the front. I love silk myself, so wanted to dress Max in silk for his Christening as it's both comfortable and luxurious. For the party, we chose a white and blue traditional style buster suit, with a sailor collar also by Sarah Louise. I was looking for a pastel outfit that would be classic yet stylish and fun.
How important were the outfits for Max’s special day. Were you conscious to pick items that were both stylish and comfortable?
I felt it was quite important to choose the right outfits for his special day, especially the Christening gown, as they often become treasured keepsakes that are used by other children in the family and handed down from generation to generation. I wanted this one to be part traditional, part modern and stylish, but most importantly to reflect his personality. Both outfits were not only beautiful pieces of clothing but also very comfortable and practical.
In terms of gifts, what traditionally do you give and receive at Christenings in Romania?
It’s quite common in our culture to offer money to the parents at Christenings (as we do at weddings too). Normally, we would estimate an amount to cover the parents’ expenses and costs. This is expected to cover the restaurant bill, as well as the music, church, decorations and everything else. Then there's usually a bit extra for the parents and the baby. Family, closer relatives and friends, as well as the godparents are expected to offer more money and usually they would also buy some presents for the baby.
The after party was at Brilliant Parc Hotel in Transylvania, Romania. Christenings in Romania are a big affair - tell us about how you celebrated.
Indeed, we hired one of the ballrooms at Brilliant Parc, which is where we had our wedding reception. They have wonderful venues for events and as we’ve collaborated with them in the past, we already knew everything would be impeccable as they deliver a five star service. We chose to hold Max’s Christening in Transylvania as it’s a special place for us - it’s where my husband and I met fifteen years ago, therefore there is much history behind it. We had family and friends travelling from different places to celebrate Max on his special day - the Christening of a baby is a big thing in Romania and it’s usually similar to a wedding with lots of guests invited. There is also a themed party involved (we chose a pastel theme and added some Rock-a-bye baby elements), a four or five course meal (there is always lots of food involved at Transylvanian parties), unlimited drinks, a candy bar (we had two actual candy bars as we wanted to offer a variety of sweets and cakes), a DJ or live band (we went for a DJ this time due to the size of the party), a dance floor, something to entertain children, lots of balloons and of course an amazing cake. The party started in the afternoon after the Church ceremony and photo sessions and it lasted until the early hours of the morning. The children were taken to bed earlier by their grandparents, so the parents and others could enjoy some dancing and of course, drinks!
There are some unique Romanian traditions that take place at the after party such as a visit from the Ursitoare (fairies who bring well wishes). What special traditions did you follow on the day?
Indeed, we have a lot of traditions and customs related to baptism with specific duties for parents and godparents, some of them being religious and others being passed from one generation to another, together with a lot of superstitions. Although we are quite modern as a family, we love our culture and try to pass some of these traditions down to our children. One of the first traditions is regarding the preparations - there was a Christening trousseau for Max which was bought by the godmothers and included:
· A large new white towel
· A small new white towel
· One set of new white clothing and/or a baptismal robe (christening gown)
· A gold/silver cross and chain
· A white candle that was made to order and it was held by the godparents. Usually it is decorated with flowers, teddies, or a design that will match the party theme. Our candle was part of a set and it matched the other items in the trousseau.
· A bottle for the holy water
· Wine and oil for the church
· A religious icon.
In the church there were also a few other things that had to be present on the table and used during the Christening: a bottle of chrism – a bit of which goes on the baby’s head, small scissors used to cut a bit of hair (which the parents will hold on to forever) and the golden crosses and Bible are there to be kissed by the Godfathers at different moments during the ceremony. The Godparents also held Max during the entire church ceremony and prepared him for the ritual bath, then they dressed him in his new clothes. They also held the candle and read the Creed during the ceremony. The parents buy and offer baptism favours (small, inexpensive jewellry crosses which are pinned to the guest's clothes) and candies for the guests after the baptism ceremony. The visit of the three fairies known as “Ursitoare” means 'the girls who decide the fate'. They are supposed to appear three nights after the child's birth to determine the course of its life, but nowadays we recreate the moment during the Christening party, where they come to wish him a prosperous and happy life. There is also a Chrism bath that takes place the second day after the baptism; it was an event attended only by parents, godparents and relatives. In the baby’s bathtub flowers, a silver coin, a gold ring, milk and honey and sanctified oil from the baptism ceremony are added into the water. During the bath time, in some traditions the godmother will say a few words, like a spell: ‘’I wish you to be beautiful like the flowers, to shine like the gold, to be kind like the milk, and to run money like honey runs.’’ There is also an interesting ceremony that will take place when Max celebrates his first birthday - a baby’s first haircut ceremony where family and friends gather to cut a short strand that is kept by the parents to remember the day. The most awaited moment is when the baby has to choose from a special tray with different objects placed in front of him – money, car keys, pen, jewellry, etc. Whatever the baby chooses, will determine his life.
All images by @alecsandra.pap
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