Answering Questions About Easter

Why are baptisms more common in Easter?

One would expect that the amount of christenings that take place in a given period of time would be strongly correlated with the birth rate. However, whilst it’s undoubtedly true that birth rates vary over the course of the year, the majority of the births occur during the summer, after the festival has taken place. Why then, do we see such high number of christenings during this time? To what should we attribute this trend?

The question can be answered in terms of both practicality and religion. Obviously, the weather is slightly better than it is during the winter and so many couples are tempted to delay the event by a month or two in order that the day itself run smoothly. This practice is not a recent development; historically, many children of Christian parentage have been baptised during the Easter Sunday service itself. For this reason, many Christians choose to confirm their baptismal vows alongside the new intake and judge Easter Sunday to be the best time to do it.

Easter bunny and egg

Why is Easter in spring?

Christians associate the events of Christ’s life with significant days on their calendar. Just as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter demarks his death and resurrection. Theses dates have nothing to do with the events of history and almost everything to do with the pagan calendar from which the Christian calendar emerged.

One need only look outside the window in order to see why spring came to be so closely bound to Easter. The world, having been a cold and dark place, is returning again to life; birds are singing, leaves are re-emerging on the once-bare branches of trees and once absent animals are emerging from hibernation. These themes are common to all spring festivals and the Christian story of the resurrection is rife with them. This should come as no surprise; these are, after all, themes which predate Christianity by thousands – if not hundreds of thousands of years.

Whilst it’s easy to fathom why spring should be so closely linked in our minds to birth and rebirth, it’s not so easy to wrap ones head around the precise formula by which the date of Easter Sunday is calculated.

To put it simply, Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. If that is a struggle, then don’t despair – you can always look it up if you’re planning something! All you need to know is that the day is calculated using a rigid set of rules – it’s not as arbitrary as it might appear.

Just what does the Easter bunny have to do with anything?

Perhaps the most frequently asked questions surrounding Easter concern the relationship between rabbits, eggs, Jesus and chocolate. At first glance, this seems something of a hodgepodge of utterly random influences. But each of them borrows from different elements of pagan folklore, theology and modern consumerism – and the result is the festival we recognise today.

The practice of incorporating pagan rituals into the Christian calendar was vitally important to the early popularity of the church. For example, the pagan festival of Saturnalia, during which the Ancient Romans would toast the god Saturn and get hideously drunk, was transformed into Christmas. The practice of baptism itself is derived from Jewish, Norse and Pagan traditions.

The same is true of Easter, which draws its name from a pagan goddess, Eostre. Her mythology is closely wedded to that of the march Hare, who was thought to possess the ability to lay eggs during Easter – remember that this was during a time when very little was known about biology.

black and white painted eggs

The symbolism of the egg is obvious. The egg represents birth, arguably in such a way that no other object possibly could. Why are Easter eggs made from chocolate? The answer can be thus surmised: At one time, eggs were consumed during Easter. But then chocolate manufacturers realised that, by creating chocolate eggs, they could sell a great deal more chocolate. Thus, to the chagrin of dentists across the land, was born the now-ubiquitous chocolate egg.

As a by-product of the annual fixation with eggs, one of the most popular christening gifts is the egg cup – most frequently one made from silver. This is a more recent tradition, developing during the Victorian era when advances in manufacturing allowed silverware to be created more easily and so become rapidly adopted by a growing middle-class. Silver egg cups and spoons remain popular christening gifts today.

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Royal christenings over the last century

Just over three months after his birth, Prince George, was christened. Tradition in the royal family has long held that christenings be held in Buckingham Palace’s Music Room. William and Kate elected to break from tradition, however and hold the ceremony in the Chapel Royal of St. James’s Palace.

Not all traditions were dispensed with, however. The ceremony was conducted by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and maintained the royal custom of minimalism – a mere twenty-two guests were invited, with only senior royals and immediate family members gracing the guest list. The attendees spanned four generations of the royal family. Interestingly, the birth of George marks only the second time in history in which three generations of direct heirs to the throne have co-existed (the first being during the latter parts of the Victorian Era).

Having only a small ceremony is one of the many traditions acquired by royal christenings over the past few centuries. Another is the customary wearing of a family gown, first created for the christening of Princess Victoria (daughter of Queen Victoria).  Since its debut, the gown has been worn by more than sixty royal babies, including that of Queen Elizabeth II.

As one might expect, the condition of this gown has deteriorated a great deal since it was first conditioned. It needed to be especially treated; after every outing it was washed by hand in sterilised water before being stored in an air-tight vault in Buckingham Palace. It became clear that the robe would eventually fall to pieces, and so it was finally retired in 2004, after being worn at the baptism of Lady Louise Windsor and now resides in the Museum of London.

Shortly afterward, a replica was created by Angela Kelly, who has been the Queen’s personal assistant since 2002. This is the gown which has been used in every ceremony since, beginning with the 2008 christening of James Viscount Severn, Lady Louise’s younger brother.

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth’s baptism occurred when she was just over five weeks old – and passed without a great deal of public interest, as she was not expected to be Queen at the time. This is in sharp contrast to Prince Charles, who certainly was – though he is still waiting, sixty-six years after his ceremony! When Charles was born, Elizabeth was not yet queen. In attendance was her husband – the Duke of Edinburgh, along with her father and then then King George VI.

Prince William

William’s christening was conducted in 1982 and was one of the many which took place in the Music Room of Buckingham palace. The ceremony was performed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie. Dr. Runcie also presided over the christening of Prince Harry two years later, in 1984 – though that ceremony took place in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.

Most christenings in the Queen’s immediate family are conducted by the archbishop of Canterbury; there are, however, a few exceptions. Of these, the most notable recent memory is that of the christening of Princess Beatrice, whose ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of York and of Princess Eugenie, whose ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Norwich. The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, was christened by the Dean of Windsor, as were his two children, James and Louise (though the office was held by different men, namely Robert Woods in the first instance and David Conner in the latter two.)

The more modern flavour introduced into Prince George’s christening reflects the fact that the bridge between royalty and the people has been strengthened through Kate and William. What the next royal christening has in store will likely be along similar lines as it will be Prince William’s and Princess Kate’s second child, due April 2015.

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Choosing the Perfect Christening Hymn

The majority of vicars will let you choose a hymn or two to sing at your baby’s christening. It can sometimes be hard to choose something appropriate and often parents go with the two or three that they know well. This is actually a good idea as people attending the Christening are more likely to sing along to something they are familiar with.

Let’s see how many hymns you remember from school and broaden your knowledge of suitable hymns for a christening. We have listed all the hymns we feel would be good at a christening below and then included the full lyrics to aid you in making your decision.

Hymn choices include:

  • Morning has broken
  • All things bright and beautiful
  • The Lord of the Dance
  • Sing Hosanna
  • Lord of all hopefulness
  • O Jesus I have promised
  • One more step along the world I go
  • Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
  • For all the Saints
  • Living Lord
  • Be Still for the Presence of the Lord
  • He’s got the whole world in his hands

The hymns to avoid because they are typically sung at funerals are:

  • Abide with Me
  • The Lord’s My Shepherd
  • The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Every church has a different organist and assistant organist setup. It is sometimes easier to get the number of the organist from the vicar so you can contact them directly. Finding out which hymns are possible first will avoid disappointment and organists are also a wealth of information in this area, as you can imagine. You can always ask the vicar who will in turn ask the organist if they can play the hymn that you want for the christening. They may also have their own list of possible choices for you to select yours from.

Most people are very familiar with ‘Morning has broken’, ‘All things bright and beautiful’, ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’, and ‘Sing Hosanna’ as these used to be regulars in school assemblies. It is possible that you know others besides these and just need to see the lyrics to jog your memory. So here you go and whatever you choose have a wonderful day.

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

The Lord of the Dance

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heave
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Dance, then,wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all,
wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all
in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe
And the pharisee,
But they would not dance
And they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
For James and John –
They came with me
And the Dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath
And I cured the lame;
The holy people
Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
And they hung me on high,
And they left me there
On a Cross to die.

I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black –
It’s hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I’d gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.

They cut me down
And I leapt up high;
I am the life
That’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you
If you’ll live in me –
I am the Lord
Of the Dance, said he.

Sing Hosanna

Give me joy in my heart
keep me praising
give me joy in my heart, I pray
give me joy in my heart
keep me praising
keep me praising till the break of day.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King of kings.
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King.

Give me peace in my heart
keep me resting
give me peace in my heart, I pray
give me peace in my heart
keep me resting
keep me resting till the break of day.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King of kings.
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King.

Give me love in my heart
keep me serving
give me love in heart, I pray
give me love in my heart
keep me serving
keep me serving till the break of day.

Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King of kings.
Sing hosanna, sing hosanna
sing hosanna to the King.

 

Oh Jesus I have promised

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my Guide.

Oh, let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

Oh, let me hear Thee speaking,
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
Oh, speak to reassure me,
To hasten, or control;
Oh, speak, and make me listen,
Thou Guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, Thou hast promised
To all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory
There shall Thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Oh, give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.

Oh, let me see Thy footmarks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in Thy strength alone.
Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then to rest receive me,
My Savior and my Friend.

One More Step along the World I Go

One more step along the world I go,
One more step along the world I go;
From the old things to the new,
Keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.

Round the corners of the world I turn,
More and more about the world I learn;
All the new things that I see
You’ll be looking at along with me.
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good,
Keep me travelling the way I should.
Where I see no way to go,
You’ll be telling me the way, I know.
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough,
Keep me loving though the world is tough;
Leap and sing in all I do,
Keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.

You are older than the world can be,
You are younger than the life in me;
Ever old and ever new,
Keep me travelling along with you:
And it’s from the old I travel to the new;
Keep me travelling along with you.

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee.

O sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

Be Still for the Presence of The Lord

Be still for the presence of the Lord,
The Holy One is here;
Come bow before Him now
With reverence and fear.
In Him no sin is found,
We stand on holy ground;
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
The Holy One is here.

Be still, for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around;
He burns with holy fire,
With splendour He is crowned.
How awesome is the sight,
Our radiant King of light!
Be still, for the glory of the Lord
Is shining all around.

Be still, for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place;
He comes to cleanse and heal,
To minister His grace.
No work too hard for Him,
In faith receive from Him;
Be still, for the power of the Lord
Is moving in this place.

He’s got the Whole World in his hands

He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.

He’s got the tiny little baby in his hands.
He’s got the tiny little baby in his hands.
He’s got the tiny little baby in his hands.
He’s got the baby in his hands.

He’s got you and my brother in his hands.
He’s got you and my brother in his hands.
He’s got you and my brother in his hands.
He’s got you and my in his hands.

He’s got the son and his father in his hands.
He’s got the son and his father in his hands.
He’s got the son and his father in his hands.
He’s got son and father in his hands.

He’s got the mother and her daughter in his hands.
He’s got the mother and her daughter in his hands.
He’s got the mother and her daughter in his hands.
He’s got mother and daughter in his hands.

He’s got everybody here in his hands.
He’s got everybody here in his hands.
He’s got everybody here in his hands.
He’s got everybody in his hands.

He’s got the sun and the moon in his hands.
He’s got the sun and the moon in his hands.
He’s got the sun and the moon in his hands.
He’s got sun and moon in his hands.

 

 

 

 

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Royal Christenings Traditions Pomp and Ceremony

Royal Souvenir First Tooth PotWith the royal family having recently announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is carrying a second child, the nation’s attention and indeed that of the world, is affixed once more on all things regal. In sharp contrast to royal weddings, funerals, and coronations (which are necessarily grand ceremonies of state) royal christenings tend to be private affairs, with just a few close relatives present.

Consequently, royal christenings throughout history are not as well documented as the other occasions mentioned. Though we know enough about them to know that some were not quite so modest. The christening of Elizabeth I featured heralds and ringing trumpets.

Many of the late Georgian and Victorian christenings were overblown affairs, with increasingly elaborate props and guests from all over the world. Intimacy, then, is a feature only really present in the christenings of more recent monarchs. Elizabeth II was attended by nine people, that of Queen Victoria herself by just seven.

What actually happens?

The ceremony is usually – though not always – conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and proceedings transpire in a particular order, in a time usually a little under half-an-hour. The ceremony commences with a selection of hymns, before the infant is brought into the room by the Head Nurse, accompanied by the mother’s lady-in-waiting. The child is then handed to the godparent and then to the archbishop. The Archbishop then asks for a name, before proceeding to pour holy water from the font over the child’s head while declaring ‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’.

Another hymn is then sung and those present leave the room in the same order that they entered, and are ushered into another room where the register is signed.  A reception then follows, in which everyone enjoys light refreshments and cake.

Royal christenings are distinct in that they feature three special items, which have been present in almost every royal christening since that of Princess Victoria in 1841.

The Honiton Lace Robe

The gown first worn by Princess Victoria was directly inspired by her mother’s wedding dress from the preceding year. When Victoria the elder needed a gown for her daughter’s christening, she turned to a lace-maker from Honiton, East Devon – though the precise identity of this lace-maker is disputed.

It has been used by more than sixty individuals since its debut 173 years ago and the colour of the satin has now faded from white to cream and the linen has now worn out.  As one might imagine, this costume is delicate and requires extremely careful maintenance along with occasional reparative work. Following every outing, the outfit is hand-washed in sterilised water.  It is then dried, wrapped in black tissue paper and stored in an airtight container in Buckingham Palace.

The Lily Font

Even by royal standards, this is a breathtakingly opulent font. It is made from gold-gilded silver and is around seventeen inches wide and seventeen inches tall. Its border is comprised of elaborate lilies, while seated cherubim flank its base. Victoria commissioned the font in 1840, allegedly on the sole grounds that an illegitimate child had been christened in an earlier one. In 1960, the font was moved from Windsor Castle to the Tower of London, where it now resides.

The Holy Water

While having a priest bless the water has long been within the means of most families, the royals have traditionally gone a step further and had their water taken from the river Jordan, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus Christ was baptised by John.

Victoria

Victoria’s christening took place in the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace at around three o’clock in the afternoon of June 24th, 1819. The ceremony was unusual, not only in that it was sparsely attended, but in that no-one present knew what the baby’s name would be.

While Victoria’s parents had come up with a shortlist of names, the decision ultimately rested with Victoria’s father’s brother: the Prince Regent, George IV. George despised his brother and flatly rejected all four of the names put forward, declaring that the child should not be given any name currently used by the royal family. When the Archbishop came to ask George for a name, he replied with ‘Alexandrina’, after the Russian Emperor Alexander I.

And so Victoria was christened ‘Alexandrina Victoria’. Though the name ‘Drina’ persisted throughout her childhood, but she always preferred to be called by her second name and after she became queen, she often got her way.

Venues

Throughout history, British monarchs have built and used a variety of venues for the occasion. The last royal christening (that of Prince George in October last year) was carried out in the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace.

For the house of Windsor, the music room in Buckingham palace has long been a favoured venue for the ceremony and four royal babies have been christened there:  Charles, Anne, Andrew and William. In each instance, the ceremony was performed by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury.

The current monarch was officially welcomed into the world on 29th May, 1926 – around five weeks after her birth. According to historian and royal biographer Sarah Bradford, the queen cried so much that “her nurse dosed her with dill water, an old-fashioned remedy, to the amusement of her uncle, the Prince of Wales.”

Cakes

No overview of royal christenings would be complete without at least a brief mention of the various christening cakes that have been created for the occasion, the most ostentatious of which seems to be that presented to Edward VII, which The Times compared to a ‘coliseum of sugar’ and reported as being around two-and-a-half feet wide and over four feet tall.

In keeping with tradition, most royal christening cakes are made from the top layer of the parents’ wedding cake. William’s was one such, though the fact that the top layer alone was sufficient to feed 182 veterans of the Falklands war should give some indication of the enormousness of Charles and Diana’s wedding cake.

 

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Planning a Christening

Planning a Christening and preparing for the party afterwards can seem a bit daunting. We have outlined below a few ideas we have picked up over the years that may make the whole experience less overwhelming and far more fun.

CHOOSING THE CHURCH

For continuity in the future, it is a good idea to choose a local church. Not only will this be helpful logistically in the run up to the ceremony and on the day, this is also the church your children will get to know over the years – a welcoming, local second family. The Church of England has a useful site to help you locate and contact your local parish church at:

www.achurchnearyou.com

If you have connections with a parish church close to your original family home, the vicar would be happy to discuss holding the service there.

Contact the church and arrange to meet the vicar when you will be able to book a date for the ceremony and discuss any queries you may have. When choosing the day, bear in mind other events or family occasions – you don’t want to have a clash of dates. And book a date some time in advance to allow guests time to fit it in their diary. The weekends around Easter are always popular for Christenings, as are the Summer weekends when the weather is better for parties in the garden at home.

Visit the church – you will receive an warm welcome. Also, why not make a trip to the church toddler group when you will get to know some of the other parents you will probably meet at the service.

CHOOSING THE GODPARENTS

Most parents choose relatives or family friends. It is best to choose godparents who you expect to stay in contact with you and stay close to your family long into the future. Whoever you choose, you are asking them to make a life-long commitment to your child’s faith and emotional wellbeing. You need to consider:

  1. You must choose a minimum of three godparents, although you may have more.
  2. Two godparents should be of the same sex as your child, whilst one should be of the opposite sex.
  3. You and your spouse can be a godparent.
  4. Godparents should already be baptised.
  5. You are not asking godparents to make a legal commitment or become legal guardians. Their role is as guides and mentors in your child’s spiritual and religious journey throughout life.
  6. Consider whether your chosen godparents will be comfortable making the promises and commitments in the church service detailed below.

PREPARATION

Here are a few suggestions that may help you avoid one or two logistical hiccups:

  1. DON’T book the church or print the invitations until you have checked whether the future godparents are free on the day.
  2. Think carefully about the guest list and how it will affect the budget. How many children will be there and of what ages? If there are a lot of children, you may need to consider special food and entertainment.
  3. If you want one of the godparents to propose a toast at the party after the Christening, ask them well in advance so they have plenty of time to prepare.
  4. Photography: Don’t rely on somebody taking some good pictures by chance. Ask a guest who knows what they are doing to take responsibility for taking a few photos at key parts of the ceremony. Some people enjoy having a role and will take on the project with pleasure. Do check with the vicar that the church is happy for photographs to be taken during the service.
  5. Invitations, whether printed and posted or emailed, should include the date, time, location (of both the church and the party), directions, RSVP (include a date to RSVP by) and dress code (if there is one). If you don’t wish to receive presents, or would prefer gifts to charity, you can let guests know in the invitation.
  6. Do any of the godparents want to be involved in the preparation – they could be very helpful support. Would they like to meet the vicar or find out more about the service?
  7. Where to hold the party: The majority of families hold a small party at home after the ceremony, although a local restaurant, hotel or village hall may be preferable for larger numbers, so review your guest list before making a decision. Budget could also be a big consideration – set yourself a limit and stick to it.

THE CEREMONY

During the Christening ceremony, your child will be baptised with water and welcomed into the family of the church. The ceremony often takes place as part of an existing church service such as a Communion or a family service. Key parts of the service include:

  1. The Decision/Promises: Godparents and parents make declarations and promises
  2. Signing with the Cross: The sign of the cross is made on your child’s forehead – usually with a special oil
  3. The Baptism: As you gather round the font, the vicar pours blessed water over your child’s head. It is at this point the vicar will use your child’s name.
  4. Light in the world: A lighted Christening candle is often presented to the child during the service with the vicar saying: “Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.”
  5. Prayers, Hymns & Readings: As with most church services, there will be a variety of prayers, hymns and readings during the ceremony.
  6. You may find it useful to review the complete service at: www.churchofengland.org/media/1190836/holy%20baptism.pdf
  7. Baby’s gown: You may like to dress your child in a traditional Christening gown, especially if it is a gown that has been used by other family members in the past. In some families it is customary for the godmother to provide a gown or an item of clothing. There is however no obligation to use a gown and many parents choose something smart that the child is used to wearing. A comfortable, contented baby at a Christening can be far more relaxing for all concerned than a flustered, irritable little bundle, unaccustomed to a formal gown. The main thing to remember is … babies grow – a piece of clothing that fits when you start planning the Christening may be rather snug on the day.
  8. Dress Code: There is no formal dress code for the adults, but many families like to dress up for the occasion. Suits or jackets for the men and elegant outfits for the ladies. Imagine a relaxed informal wedding rather than “red carpet” glamour.

AFTER THE CEREMONY

The party after the ceremony is a wonderful occasion of friends and family, where some of the most important people in your life and that of your child are gathered, so enjoy it. Don’t turn it into an emotional and physical assault course. Here are a few thoughts when planning the party.

Christening Gifts: For safety and security, plan where you will put any gifts that people bring to the party. A helpful niece or nephew might take responsibility for looking after the pressies. And remember, when you do get round to opening them, have a pen and pad of paper handy to note down who gave what … it’s easy to muddle things up.

Don’t forget to ask the vicar to the party. Vicars are very busy people and they probably won’t be able to make it, but it can be so easy to overlook them in all the whirl of planning and preparation – an invitation is often appreciated.

A small speech or toast at the party is traditional and often expected. Plan ahead and ask someone (usually a godparent) to propose a toast well BEFORE the event. If you spring it on them on the day, they will be ill-prepared and won’t thank you for it. If the budget is tight, you don’t have to splash out on Champagne for the toasts, a dry Cava or Prosecco works just as well and is often preferable.

The food, drink, theme and location of your party will depend on your budget and your guest list, so we’ve outlined a few thoughts below to help with your budgeting.

YOUR BUDGET

To help you plan ahead, here are a few things you may need to budget for. You may find there are more added costs to consider than you think:

  1. Dress: Apart from what your child will wear at the Christening, think about what you, your spouse and your other children will wear on the day
  2. The Church: Is there a fee? Do you want to make a charitable donation? Flowers and decorations?
  3. The Party doesn’t have to be expensive, but here are the main costs to consider:
    >  Invitations
    >  Food & Drink
    >  Fizz for the toast
    >  Balloons & Decorations
    >  Table Decorations and Napery
    >  Christening Cake
    >  Entertainment
    >  Venue Fee
  4. Presents: You may be planning to buy something substantial for your child like an engraved silver cup or some silver jewellery, but also consider a small thank you gift for the godparents and maybe the grandparents. A little memento for the other children at the party is also a nice idea.
  5. Unexpected additional costs can include: Professional photographs or video; Musicians & entertainers; Putting up guests and relatives overnight who have travelled a long way; Transport and parking … and of course, the holiday you will need when it’s all over.
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Silver Cleaning & Silver Care

At CHRISTENINGsilver, we are regularly asked the best way to look after silver. How to clean it, care for it and store it.

Cleaning silver and restoring a dull piece of tarnished metal to its former glory can be very satisfying. You end up with a gleaming piece of silver that catches the light like no other metal.

Over time, with each polish, silver develops a patina – this is the mellow finish common to all antique silver, created by the millions of microscopic scratches from the cloth that build up on the surface. Like great wines, silver improves and matures with age.

When caring for silver, your biggest enemy is tarnish.

What is Tarnish?

Tarnish is a dull film that forms on the surface of your silver. It is usually a dull grey or light brown colour, but, in really severe cases, it can be a matt black – very unattractive and difficult to shift.

Discolouration is caused by a variety of agents, the most common of which is simply … air. Silver reacts with hydrogen sulphide in the air – the higher the concentration of hydrogen sulphide and the higher the humidity, the faster the tarnish accumulates. Tarnish is not like rust, it doesn’t continue eating away at the metal, it seals the surface and eventually the tarnish layer becomes stable. The more often you clean and polish your silver, the less likely it is tarnish will build up.

There are many other substances that can mark or discolour your silver. If it is a piece of tableware, food stuffs like wine or salt can cause damage if left in contact with the piece. Salty or acidic foods should be cleaned off as soon as possible – a quick wipe now will save polishing later and avoid the corrosive effect of contact over time. Moisture and oil from finger prints and handling should be wiped off as soon as possible – it’s amazing how tenacious a thumb print on the side of a photo frame can be if you leave it for a few days. Other things to avoid include anything made of latex (don’t make the mistake of bundling up your silver cutlery and holding them together with a rubber band, the staining from the rubber/latex can be quite severe and difficult to remove). If wrapping or storing silver, avoid newspaper, wool, felt and even cling film – it’s best to wrap in acid free paper or an anti-tarnish tissue.

If your silver is tarnished or stained, here are a few thoughts about cleaning:

CLEANING

The best policy is to clean a little and often. If you wipe or wash your silver often you will avoid the need to use silver polishes which can be abrasive.

Detergent in warm water is good for washing off marks, but make sure the detergent is phosphate free … If you are cleaning hollow items with warm water and detergent, don’t dunk them under water, just use a damp cloth. If you dunk the silver, the tell-tale sight of bubbles rising to the surface is a sure sign that water is filling a hollow handle or a hollow stem – it will be there for years.

After washing, dry immediately with a cotton cloth to avoid the water evaporating on the surface and causing spots.

and finally …. NEVER put your silver in a dishwasher.

USING POLISHES & DIPS

If you have left your silver so long that a tarnish starts to be visible (initially a light yellow tint, later brown and then, finally, black), then you will probably need to use a polish or an impregnated cloth. Where possible we recommend using a cloth like a Goddard’s Long Term Silver Polish Cloth. These are very soft, will lift light tarnishing and offer some protection. One word of warning – a silver cloth may start out soft and non-abrasive, but be careful where you put it down or where you store it. Any bits of grit, dirt and dust they pick up will but rubbed over the surface of the silver the next time you use the cloth … sometimes to disastrous effect.

Some polishes are a lot more abrasive than others. We really don’t recommend using wadding polishes like Silvo, because the wadding and polish is so abrasive. It’s best to use a clean soft cloth or cotton along side a liquid polish like Goddards or Town Talk. Never use polishes that are drying out – the crusty surface will scratch the silver. Similarly, be careful when cleaning old silver that has dried cleaning residue on it, bits that crumble off will combine with your cloth to scratch the silver.

As far as Silver Dips are concerned, the best advice is to avoid theme where possible. Whilst initially you will get a stunning result, dips can cause pitting which encourages tarnishing later, they can leave a “milky” finish after a few uses and some are indiscriminate – that patina of shading that was so carefully added by the silversmith in his workshop can easily be eaten away by a silver dip to the detriment of the character of your silver.

SHORT CUTS & BASIC ERRORS

If you search online, you may come across what seems like a cheap, makeshift cleaning technique using aluminium foil and baking soda (some recipes suggest adding vinegar) … the simple advice is “Don’t try it”. The chemistry makes sense and the silver will appear cleaner and shinier, but you may cause pitting and scratching that will get worse the more often you use the technique and it makes the surface more prone to tarnish because of the damage to the surface.

If someone advises you to use toothpaste, they obviously don’t like silver. Toothpaste is highly abrasive – if you want to ruin your silver, use toothpaste.

SILVER PLATE

You need to be pretty cautious and sparing when cleaning your silver plate. Remember the layer of silver is only a few microns thick, so aggressive cleaning can remove the plating over time exposing the base metal underneath … as before, clean a little and often.

Enjoy your silver … it will bring pleasure for many, many years.

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Popular Names for Baby Girls

Looking at the latest publication of the Top 100 Baby Names in England & Wales from the Office for National Statistics, there seems to have been very little change to the top five girls names over the last couple of years – but there have been some big movers over the last decade. Ten years ago Amelia and Lily weren’t even in the top twenty – they are now some of the UK’s most popular names for baby girls. Sadly, some names have disappeared altogether including: Bertha, Blodwen, Gladys and Muriel – you will also struggle to find a Gertrude or a Marjorie at the playgroup.

So, who is in the top five and why are they so popular?

1. AMELIA
Amelia has shot up 24 places in the last ten years to take the number one spot. Unlike Emily (which has a Latin root), Amelia is a variation of the Germanic “Amalia” and is often associated with a hard-working, diligent character as well as a fruitful and productive nature. The Georgians brought the name to England in the 18th century and many royal princesses carried the name. Forty years ago the name hardly featured in the top 100 and its current resurgence is difficult to link to any recent cultural or media trends.

We are pretty short of famous personalities called Amelia. So, while the first one to come to mind is probably Amelia Earhart, here’s one for the pub quiz: The famous actress Minnie Driver was Christened Amelia Driver.

Other diminutives include: Mel, Milly, Amy
Foreign alternatives: Amélie, Amalia, Emilia

2. OLIVIA
Olivia is one of those English names (like Wendy) where we can be pretty confident of its origins. Up until 1601 the name simply didn’t exist, then, William Shakespeare, looking to name a character in his play Twelfth Night, coined the name for the wealthy Countess Olivia who falls in love with “Cesario”. Thought to be Shakespeare’s feminine version of the boy’s name Oliver, the derivation is from the Latin word “Oliva”, meaning olive. For this reason, the name is associated with peacemakers but also strength and reliability.

Ok, we can all name one famous Olivia who sang “You’re the One That I Want”, but can you name two more celebrities called Olivia?

Other diminutives include: Liv, Livvy, Livia, Ollie
Foreign alternatives: Olivie, Vivi

3. JESSICA
Jessica has been in the top ten girls names for the last twenty years or so. The exploits of one Miss Jessica Ennis in the 2012 Olympics will probably ensure it stays there for the next twenty years. Amazingly, the origin of the name Jessica is attributed to an English playwright we have already mentioned here … yes, William Shakespeare is credited with coining the name Jessica as well as Olivia. In The Merchant of Venice, Jessica is the daughter of Shylock. Shakespeare is thought to have adapted the biblical Hebrew name Yiskah which was also spelt “Jeska” in some contemporary bibles. The Hebrew word means “foresight” and the name is now associated with an organised personality who plans ahead.

Jessica Ellen Cornish was born on the 27 March 1988 … you know her by another name … you’ve seen her on The Voice … yes it’s singer songwriter Jessie J.

Other diminutives include: Jessie, Jess
Foreign alternatives: Jessika, Yessica

4. EMILY
Although similar to the name Amelia (which has Germanic roots), Emily is thought to come from the Latin romance languages. The meaning is often cited as “rival”, but another interpretation could be “contender”, “equal” or “peer”. So Emily is her own person, independent and up for a challenge. A very feminine name that was number 2 ten years ago, but still very popular. Corresponding boy’s names include Emile and Max (Maximilian has the same root).

Mini factoid: Hermione Granger actress Emma Watson was Christened Emily.

Other diminutives include: Em, Emmy, Milly, Emmie, Millie
Foreign alternatives: Emilie, Émilie, Emilia

5. LILY
Of all the girls names derived from flowers (like Rose, Violet and Daisy), Lily is by far the most popular. Lilies have always been closely associated with the Virgin Mary because of their pure white colour and the name still conjures up images innocence, virtue and purity. The name has grown in popularity over the last ten years, climbing 23 places to the number 5 spot. A few home-grown celebrities like Lily Allen may be partly responsible, but some commentators have also pointed to a more magical icon … Yes, Harry Potter’s mum was called Lily.

Other variants include: Lillie, Lilly
Foreign alternatives: Liana, Liliana

Finally can you explain this … Ten years ago hardly any girls were called “Lexi” – 1,659 other names were more popular. The name now comes in at position 46 (more popular than Rosie, Emma, Amy and Katie) … It is a pretty diminutive of Alexandra or Alexa, but why the sudden surge in popularity?

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Choosing Godparents

There are very few hard and fast rules about choosing godparents for your child, but there are probably three boxes you need to tick first:

1) The Church of England does ask that godparents have been Baptised. The Church also recommends that godparents are Confirmed, although this is not essential.

2) You will need a minimum of three godparents, two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. You and your husband/wife can be godparents, but there must be at least one additional godparent.

3) Godparents are not only making a personal commitment, they are also representing your child at the Christening, so the godparents have to be old enough to understand their role. It may seem attractive to ask a young cousin to become a godparent, but always consider whether they are mature enough to understand the promises they will be making.

Godparents are not taking on a legal obligation. They are not responsible in law for your child and are not obliged to care for your child should anything happen to you – You are not asking them to become a legal guardian. You are however asking them to make a lifelong commitment to your child’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Remember, you are choosing someone who will be a spiritual and emotional guide for your child … It is easy to choose a godparent for the wrong reasons. Just because someone is wealthy, it doesn’t mean they will have the emotional maturity for the job or the commitment. Don’t choose somebody out of loyalty because they are an “old mate” or because you want to show them some recognition as a token of friendship. Also, just because someone has asked you to be the godparent of their child, it doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate and ask them to be a godparent in return. And, finally, think carefully before asking work colleagues, especially superiors, unless of course you are very close friends.

The bottom line: Choose a godparent for your child … not for you. You are choosing someone who you trust to provide encouragement in spiritual and church life and emotional support throughout childhood.

Try not to put your friends in a difficult position. Think about the character of the person you will be asking. If they are not churchgoers but are spiritually aware, they may be happy to make the declarations and commitments required at the Baptism. However if you are considering a friend who holds strong views about religion, or who would find the declarations at the service difficult to affirm, you may be placing them in the embarrassing dilemma of wanting to refuse, but not wanting to let you down at the same time.

Depending upon the church, the vicar and the service chosen, the godparents will be asked to answer a series of questions and make declarations on your child’s behalf … these vary according to recent changes in the service, but here is an example of the sort of responses you will be asking the godparents to say – will the godparents you are considering be happy to do this?:

Vicar: “Parents and godparents, the Church receives these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?”
Godparents: With the help of God, we will.

Vicar: “In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them,and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?”
Godparents: With the help of God, we will.

Vicar: “In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:

“Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?”
Godparents Response: I reject them.

“Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?”
Godparents Response: I renounce them.

“Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?”
Godparents Response: I repent of them.

“Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?”
Godparents Response: I turn to Christ.

“Do you submit to Christ as Lord?”
Godparents Response: I submit to Christ.

“Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?”
Godparents Response: I come to Christ.

It may be worth reading those declarations again and considering whether the godparents you have chosen will be comfortable making these declarations. Recent changes to the service may have toned down the wording, but the underlying meaning remains the same – ask your vicar for a copy of the service your church uses.

And finally … and I speak from experience … If you are going to ask one of the godparents to make a speech, do warn them in advance. Even the best raconteur needs a bit of time to gather their thoughts … The more time they have to prepare for a speech or toast the more meaningful it will be.

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What’s in a Name – The UK’s Top 5 Names for Baby Boys

A recent survey of birth records by Ancestry.co.uk shows that a number of once popular boys names are now effectively “extinct”. In 2012 not a single baby boy was named Willie, Cecil or Rowland, whilst names like Horace, Leslie and Norman have almost died out. These names were very common 100 years ago, but times are changing and the likelihood of meeting a “Cecil” in the school playground over the next few years is rare to say the least.

Between 1900 and 1930 names like Cecil and Norman held the top spots, so what names are replacing them now that they have fallen from favour? The last records from the Office for National Statistics put “Harry” as the number one most popular name for baby boys in England, followed by “Oliver”, “Jack”, “Charlie” & “Jacob”, supplanting earlier favourites like “Thomas”, “William” and “Alfie”.

So where have these names come from and what do they mean?

1: HARRY

A diminutive or pet form of Henry, Harry has become an increasingly popular boy’s name since the mid nineteen-nineties … Prince Harry and young Harry Potter may have added to the popularity of the name and recent celebrities like Harry Styles from One Direction have probably helped maintain the number one position for the last few years.

Henry was originally a Germanic name for a leader – “Heimrich” – where “heim” means “home” and “rich” which means “ruler, leader or power” …. So Henry and Harry are regal names. The Normans introduced the name in the 11th century and by 1547 England had had eight kings named Henry.

One celebrity “Harry” you might struggle to name is the Prince of Pop himself, Cliff Richard, whose real name is Harry Webb.

Other diminutives include: Hal & Hank
Foreign alternatives: Heinrich, Enrique, Henny, Henning, Enzo & Harri

2: OLIVER

Oliver is the Norman French form of the Norse name “Olaf”. Because of its resemblance to the Latin word for olive tree, “oliva”, the name Oliver has come to be associated with peacemakers (the olive branch) and fruitfulness. The religious and cultural importance of the olive in the ancient and biblical worlds has also imbued the name Oliver with a spiritual strength coupled with a reliable and supportive nature.

The popularity of “Oliver” has been mixed over the last few centuries in the UK. During the Medieval period the name was popularised in “The Song of Roland”, an epic poem in which Olivier played the reliable and sensible foil to Roland’s impetuous and impulsive character. Following the English Civil War, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate of Cromwell in the mid 17th century, Oliver became increasingly unpopular. Oliver Cromwell didn’t receive a great press for many years after The Restoration and the name suffered as a result. It was only in Victorian times that the name saw a resurgence, during which time Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” brought the name back into the public eye.

In 1970, heart-throb Ryan O’Neal played the lead character “Oliver” in a romantic weepy called “Love Story”. The movie played to an audience of millions of swooning teenage girls, so it should come as no surprise that “Oliver” became an increasingly popular name for baby boys born in the following two decades.

Other diminutives include: Ollie, Oli
Foreign alternatives: Alvaro, Olaf, Olivier

3: JACK

“Jack” is another diminutive or pet form, this time of the name “John”, that was derived from the old English name “Jankin” (or Jackin). Whilst John has its origins in Hebrew and close associations with the saints John the Baptist and the Apostle John, Jack is a much more down to earth name. It was so popular in the Middle Ages, that Jack simply became another word for a man … hence “Jack of all Trades”, “Lumberjack” and even the “Jack” in a pack of cards. In nursery rhymes and stories he appears again and again: Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack & Jill, Jack Sprat and Little Jack Horner. And, unfortunately, the name also became a generic pseudonym for an unidentified man such as “Jack the Ripper”.

As far as famous Jacks go, children today are probably most aware of the pirate Jack Sparrow, but anyone who can remember November 22nd 1963 will know that President John F Kennedy was called Jack by friends and family.

Other diminutives include: Jake, Jackie
Foreign alternatives: Jock, Jocky

4: CHARLIE

Derived from the Germanic name “Karl”, Charlie is a diminutive form of “Charles” and can also be used as a girls name. Originally meaning “man” or “free man” in old German languages, the name Charles was adopted by many European royal families after the rule of Charles the Great (Charlemagne) and the rise of the Holy Roman Empire. The name only found prominence in England after the Stuart kings Charles I and Charles II came to the throne in the 17th century.

Because it is a diminutive, pet name, Charlie is always seen as friendly and fun-loving. Many of the Charlies you can think of are light-hearted and fun: Charlie Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Higson, Charlie Parker and Charlie Watts. Probably the best known Charlie in the world is Charlie Davies-Carr …. does the name ring a bell? Over 700 million people have seen this Charlie’s 56 second video on YouTube … yes, he stars in “Charlie Bit My Finger”.

Other diminutives include: Chaz, Chip, Chuck
Foreign alternatives: Karl, Kalle, Carlitos, Carlos

5: Jacob

The fifth most popular baby boy’s name in England is Jacob. It is the most popular name in the USA.

Up until The Reformation in the 16th century, the name Jacob was mainly used in Jewish culture. This is understandable since Jacob was the third patriarch and the father of the tribes of Israel. The recent popularity of Jacob is not so easy to explain. This Hebrew name means “supplanter” or “usurper” – Jacob cheated his older twin brother out of his birthright and deceived his blind father into blessing him instead of his brother Esau. But Jacob, later named “Israel”, found redemption and forgiveness and the name today is associated with honesty, truthfulness and a warm heart.

Strangely enough, the recent popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s series of “Twilight” books has given the name Jacob added support for a few more years – the enigmatic and brooding character of Jacob Black has grabbed the imagination of many teenage readers who will be parents naming baby boys in a few years time.

Other diminutives include: Jake, Jacko
Foreign alternatives: Jakob, Jago, Iago, Giacomo

So, what for the future? Well, names to keep an eye on include: Hugo (up 51 places), Kayden (up 662 places), Dexter (up 327 places), Ollie (up 306 places) and Jenson (up 242 places). The engravers at CHRISTENINGsilver have got their money on “George” and “Louis” making a big showing over the next few years …. I wonder why?

Don’t forget once you have settled on a name, we have a fantastic range of christening gifts for boys available on our website here, many of which can also be engraved with the chosen name.

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From Princess to Fairy Godmother

A silver first tooth fairy box

The congregation at St Barnabas Church in Mayland, Chelmsford, had a pleasant surprise last Sunday during a Christening at the family service. The Duchess of Cambridge attended as a godmother and she was joined at the service, not only by her husband Prince William … she brought Prince George along as well.

The service was conducted by Reverend Ken Dunstan who admitted that he didn’t usually pay a huge amount of attention to godparents as long as they were there and willing to make the appropriate promises, but on this occasion he admitted that his usual congregation were a bit surprised. “My main concern was that I got the tone right for the family and for the baptism.”

Some little bunny in Mayland will have some Christening photos to be proud of and we are pretty confident there will be some impressive Christening pressies in the treasure box too.

Prince William had a busy day … after a slice of Christening cake he had to whizz back to London and change into the Dinner Jacket in time for the BAFTAs, where he was guest of honour and handed a BAFTA fellowship to Dame Helen Mirren, saying he should probably call her “granny” following her many performances as The Queen on stage and in film.

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