The baptism ceremony is another important ritual in the Greek family tradition and is almost as big a function as a wedding. We find ourselves at the Greek church in Blacktown to attend the christening of little Olivia – the daughter of Steve’s cousin Maria and her husband Shannon who we see fairly often given they live in our part of the world.
Choosing the God parents is an important part of this tradition because it not only brings with it certain responsibilities toward the child but creates a bond between the families that will last a lifetime. Naming a child in Greek tradition is also steeped in ritual which can vary depending on the island from which you come from. Generally, it means that your child is named after his/her grandfather or grandmother but the rules vary about the order in which each side of the family gets first dibs! Most Greeks owe their names to a religious saint and another common tradition is the name day celebration where your name is celebrated on a certain day of the year by the church.
The Orthodox church is quite beautiful with colourful murals that depict biblical stories adorning the walls and windows. The Baptism ritual starts with the God parent renouncing Satan on behalf of the baby – a sort of exorcism. The priest then spits toward the west wind to end the exorcism and in damnation of Satan and then pronounces the life of Christ by professing the faith toward the East wind.
The baby is then brought in to the church in a procession, anointed in holy oil and lowered into the baptismal font 3 times. It is a cold day and I feel for little Olivia as she is lowered into the water. Her squeals indicate she is less then impressed with this ritual!
After the ceremony is over, we file past to wish the family well and drive into the City for a wonderful reception. It is quite a formal affair with speeches and little gifts for the guests – the first in a series of celebrations that will mark the life of this little girl.
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. ~Danny Kaye