Christening traditions

The Christening Ensemble

An infant’s Christening ensemble is perhaps the most important and cherished garment they will wear in their lifetime. The Christening wardrobe typically consists of a gown, bonnet, booties and oftentimes a blanket or outer robe. A symbol of purity, joy and rebirth, the gown is typically white or ivory, and very long. The extended length of the gown dates back to centuries ago when a child’s Christening gown became his or her “best” wear displaying prominence and prestige during infancy. When the child reached walking age, the gowns were shortened, as the length was no longer practical. Today, a long Christening gown is a symbol of tradition and a nod to generations past. Most gowns are made of linen or silk and are embellished with intricate details such as lace and embroidery.
 

The Heirloom Gown

Some families are fortunate enough to posses heirloom gowns that have been passed down from one generation to the next. For those who do not, modern parents are embracing nostalgia and purchasing heirloom quality gowns so that they might start a new family tradition. Because Christening gowns are considered unisex, they can be worn by each new child in the family, regardless of gender. Most families choose to share their gowns among their extended brood so that brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles may all share in the tradition by donning the same Christening gown.Once a child has been baptized in the gown, the family typically records the occasion by marking the infant’s name, baptismal date and location in a keepsake document such as the gown’s box or a family bible. Others choose to embroider the dress itself with a monogram. These cherished traditions create a lasting heirloom that is treasured for generations to come.
 

Preserving the Gown

Whether you are preserving your Christening gown as an heirloom to be worn by future generations, or as a cherished keepsake for display, proper care and storage is critical. Unfortunately, these fragile garments can become easily damaged by elements such light, heat, humidity and dust. To prevent such damage, first have your Christening gown professionally cleaned promptly after the child’s dedication. Immediately remove any dry cleaning bags or other plastics that can house chemical residue. Wrap the gown in acid-free tissue paper to prevent it from yellowing before carefully placing it in a metal box or specially designed preservation bag to keep bugs, dust and dirt out. Once the Christening gown is properly packed, it should be kept in a dry, dark area (closet shelves are ideal) at a temperature of 70 degrees and a humidity of approximately 50 percent. It is also an excellent idea to label the box, and photograph its contents so that you do not need to open it and expose it to the elements to determine its contents.
 

Displaying the Gown

Many like to display their beautiful Christening gowns to enjoy every day. If you choose to do so, avoid dramatic changes in temperature and humidity, and ensure the gown is kept clean. Do not place it on an open shelf or loose inside a curio or china cabinet. Instead, have the gown framed in a keepsake shadow box, where it will be protected from dust, dirt and handling.Be sure to display your gown away from windows or direct sunlight that can easily cause discoloration.
 

Carrying on the Tradition

There are many special ways to carry the Christening wardrobe through to future generations and celebrations. Beyond passing the gown on from child to child, many choose to incorporate it into other important milestones, such as first communions and weddings. For example, the Christening bonnet can be turned into a wedding trousseau handkerchief; a baby bracelet can be incorporated into a bride’s bouquet and a baby girl’s Christening headband can one day become her wedding garter. Many families also choose to take a small part of the Christening gown’s interior and sew it into their daughter’s first communion dress and ultimately, her wedding gown. This makes a lovely tradition that celebrates the sentimentality of a child’s three most sacred sacraments.
 

History of Christening Gowns

A christening gown is a special garment worn by infants and small children during a Christian baptism or dedication ceremony. White is the traditional colour and the most popular. Both boys and girls wear christening gowns, which are often passed down from one generation to another.

Religious Roots - According to Catholic.com, infant christenings originate from the Jewish bris (circumcision) and zeved habat rituals, in which children are named and dedicated to God. The Christian church adopted a similar custom, baptizing babies along with adult converts. All candidates had to wear white clothing to symbolize their "newness of life" in Christ (Romans 6:4).

Victorian Era- LittleDovesChristeningGowns.com explains how the typical christening outfit--characterized by elaborate lace and embroidery, long gowns and elegant white material--came to fruition during the 19th century. Bonnets, bibs and bootees completed the christening ensemble. White silk and satin were the fabrics of choice until cotton became more accessible during the Victorian Era.

Today-  Although most modern christening outfits are scaled-down versions of Victorian ones, they also come in different colours and styles, especially for boys. Suits, rompers and vests are common substitutes for the traditional gown.

Heirlooms - Christening gowns embrace both the family's past and future. For example, a mother uses her wedding dress to make the outfit for her oldest child. Then, that same gown is worn by her other children and grandchildren. The garment may also include symbols specific to the family's cultural background.

Fun Facts- For good luck and health, in Scotland, babies sleep in their christening gowns the night before the ceremony.

 

Making Christening Memorable

The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time for parents and families and the perfect opportunity to revive an old family tradition; the Christening gown. What better way to welcome a new child into the family, than with an heirloom gown worn by generations before? If you don’t have a family heirloom gown, let the next baby to enter your family mark a new beginning for an old tradition.

Precious & Few offers a collection of keepsake Christening Gowns perfect for the occasion. Born from this very idea of keeping family traditions alive, Precious & Few offers an opportunity to purchase a quality heirloom gown to be passed down to generations to come. Made in the U.S., the Christening Gowns are available in fine white linen or ivory silk. Each gown is lined in cotton and can be monogrammed in pink, blue, or ivory. The gowns are perfect for a Christening, Baptism, or Naming Ceremony and are appropriate attire for either a boy or a girl.

It is said that the Christening Gown is the thread which runs through the history of your family. Let the next new arrival in your family mark the beginning of a new family tradition with a Christening Gown from Precious & Few.