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french christening


cary

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Can anyone please tell me if the french christen their children?  And if so is the ceremony the same as in england and do they wear the same sort of christening outfits that we use in the uk.  Any help greatly appreciated.  Thanks
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It is hard to generalise. Obviously Christians do. What does seem really important here is the choice of godparents, people consider it a great honour to be marraine or parrain and will mention it as an important relationship, something which I had not come across so much in the UK. A friend of mine whose sister had a baby recently whilst gushing over baby snaps said "et je vais être la marraine" like was really the icing on the cake. Generally it does seem to be brothers or sister who are asked first. Also, christening mugs or bracelets or bible are given by those close to the family. I've actually never been to one, my French family not being in the immediate vicinity, but I am going on conversations with my French mother in law.
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I've only been to one French christening (in Paris) and it was a bit of a joke. At least a dozen children of all ages were being christened "à la chaîne" in a vast church that was almost deserted. The ceremony was not part of a normal service as is often the case in the UK.

The ceremony was an incidental part of the day - because it was the vast meal in the posh restaurant that everyone had come for. It went on all day and all evening, and the poor little boy in question (in ridiculous white outfit) was exhausted and screaming long before it ended.

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I've been to quite a few christenings in france, including children 1 and 3 (#2 was done in the UK)

As with a lot of French religious services, a lot seems to depend on the priest. I often get the feeling he is making the ceremony up as he goes along. The basic ceremony doesn't seem very different from the UK, but there is more of an insistance on wearing white, as Chicfille says. When my filleule (goddaughter) was christened, the priest refused even tiny green flowers on her dress. Some priests have a (often revolting) white garment that they put round the baby, we had to undress my gaddaughter and put this on her instead in the middle of the ceremony.

I've been to christenings during the Sunday service (the preferred method for priests in rural areas who have to deal with several churches) and christenings at a separate time. As chicfille says, for most french people, the ceremony is slightly incidental. The celebration is the most important thing. Hours and hours in a restaurant (we hired out a salle de fêtes in Brittany)

It seems that most christening presents are non-religious. The godparents are often expected to buy a medaillon (one gets the chain the other the medaille- this is usually the virgin mary) But the other presents are generally toys and books, the same sort of thing you would give at a birth.

I'm a marraine. It's important. My goddaughter never calls me Tata, always Marraine. My husband has recently been asked to be parrain to a friend's son. He hesitated, not because of the religious responsibility, but because it's important to him to see his filleuls and be involved in their lives and he wasn't sure he would be able to.

 

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"It seems that most christening presents are non-religious."

This reminds me of an incident not at a christening but a first communion service we attended years ago. The church was packed with parents standing in the aisles filming their child's big moment, and the priest made everyone sit down and proceeded to give a long sermon about the evils of materialism and meaning of the service, that it wasn't an occasion worthy of a new bike or a games console, but about a religious commitment, so an appropriate gift would be a bible or prayer book, nothing more.

I could see all the parents squirming with embarrassment in their seats, thinking of the gleaming mountain bike sitting in the garage !

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Now this might be regional, but, in my husband's family, in the past they often gave the child a different name for their chistening than they put on the the birth certificate. His mother comes from a family of 10, and some of them are known by the name on their birth certificate and some by the name they were Christened. When my husband recently researched his great uncles who died during world war one, it caused him some difficulties. A more modern version seems to be to give the child the name of the marraine or the parrain as their middle name, I know a couple of people who have that.
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[quote]don't suppose you were baptised in a pretty frilly outfit then battypuss?[/quote]

If you saw me, you'd know how utterly inappropriate anything frilly would be...I'm sorry to say, I wore a scarlet suit!

I remember trying to re-dress brat mark two and brat mark three in white though, halfway through; one threw a wobbly and the other peed on me.

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Two of my children were Christened in Paris and some of my grandchildren have been Christened here too.  The baptism service is exactly the same as an 'Anglican' service (literally word for word).  The ceremony is perhaps a little less formal than some 'English' churches but usually white/cream robes/outfits are worn.  As someone else has posted it is a grear honour to be asked to be godmother or godfather and the French take it very seriously and 'marraine or parain' would always be invited to important birthdays, confirmation, wedding etc.  There is always a good meal following the Christening ceremony (a bit like a family wedding) with good wine, champagne etc and of course the 'dragées' (sugared almonds).  In all it's very much a fun occasion and traditional gifts are similar to the UK - serviette rings, bibles, spoon sets, gold medallions (more for Catholic services) silver name bracelets etc.  Much nicer than civil naming ceremonies which always seem a bit like an excuse to receive gifts, but I'm biased as I actually believe in the Christening bit!
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  • 2 weeks later...

Our 3 kids all christened in France all call their various godparents parrain and marraine. For each child, we chose one member of the family and one friend which has worked quite well. The presents from godparents were very traditional - a gold médaille and chain for each of them (Saint Christopher for the boys and Virgin Mary for the girl).

The celebrations themselves were quite fun; we were allowed to play loud didgeridoo music in the church on boxing day since our 2 kids were the only ones being "done". Other kids did drawings and pinned them up on the altar and lit candles - a bit frightening for the adults.

With regard names, only my husband has suffered from a tradition that appears to be dying out... his second and third name are those of his godfather and... godmother (Marie-Chantal!); this puts a bit of a blow on street cred.

We've just got over the christening stage and are revving up for communions, première communions and professions de foi - seems like every weekend (plus ascension day) are taken up.

Katie

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