Cultural - The Baptism
In the orthodox community baptisms are as well important like births are important for human existence. The happy parents don’t think about “shall I baptize my child?” but when and how to make the party. The most important thing is to find out, who will be the godfather or godmother (Greek: Nanos, Nona). On Crete predestined are the most closed friends of the parents. In Athens they do find nowadays godfathers and – mothers among the own family – mostly the most loved cousin, but on Crete there is not much understanding for that. The Crete people think, this is an unwise decision, to say it with friendly words.
In view of the fact, that godfather or godmother will be the second mother or father for the child, two hole families join together and enlarge the sphere of influence in one go many times over. So now you can understand why on Crete everyone knows everybody and got support when necessary. The main fact in everybody’s live is to whom family do you belong. And huge family means a really big one, because everyone who is baptizing from a member of this family became the same family. Honestly, two children can’t get married when they have the same godfather or -mother, because for the orthodox church law they are brother and sister indeed.
When will a person be baptized?
Malicious tongues say when you have found the right godfather or –mother, then its time to baptize your child. But honestly, everyone can determine the right date, also depending with his financials, because he wants to do it in style. Mostly children will be baptized between the first and fourth year of live. Until then they do not have a name. Babies are often called Bebe, as long as they are young.
Who is the name-giver?
Only at the Baptism the child to be baptized will get its real name. Mostly the parents on Crete decided in an traditional way so the firstborn child, lets say it is a boy, will get the name of his grandfather fatherly. The next child, lets think about a girl, will be named like her grandmother fatherly.
The next siblings will get names from grandfather and grandmother motherly and so you won’t have trouble with your parents, because everybody feels proud, to be selected as a name-giver.
So now you can imagine, why there are so many Georges or Jiannies, Marias or Elenis on special parts of Crete. That’s also why for every simle contract like for your telephone or electric power, you have also to declare the names of your father and mother.
Once, when your private pool of names is exhausted, firstly appears new Names in the family.
How is the ceremony of Baptism?
Baptism societies are as a rule smaller than wedding parties. You will be invited to the church celebration. Mostly it’s a small chapel and the ceremony will be done outside of it. Often there will be a dinner after it in a much smaller circle (30 until 50 persons) where you have to have a special invitation.
For the church celebration, the parents of the child have prepared little giveaways, which will be shared among the visitors afterward. Once it was almonds with sugar in a little tulle-net, nowadays you will be pleased with puddings, little ceramics or “Komboloi”-chains (simple ones or expensive silvered – comparing to their purse) and other things more. For Symbol of member of the Christian Community every guest got also a small pin formed to a cross at the end of the liturgy.
Between two massive gold covers and decorated with precious jewels lies the bible at the table and near the baptism font (made out of massive metal). The font remains me at a huge cup. Three long and very thin candles, wrap up with skye-blue tulle, are burning, fixed in special holders at the font. Same precious decorated as the bible there is also a little bottle with blessed water. A big white towel with tiny golden embroidery is also ready for the child to be baptized. Other necessary utensils are olive oil, a scissors, a piece of soap and a small towel for the pope to clean his hands afterwards. Also the identity card of the child is ready to get the new information about the godfather or mother – just to prevent weddings among persons with same godfather or mother.
The audience has build a crowd around table and font, the pope take place near the table in opposite of mother and child. He starts his liturgy, singing and presents the bible to the people. Then he blesses the community with incense. The audience cross themselves often and clear, while flashlights from cameras give garish background. For sure you will find someone standing motionless at a corner with a video camera on his shoulder, writing the scene digital for ever. Symbolical the pope went three times around the table before he cross-examines the godmother: Are you devout? Godmothers answer: Yes. Are you devout? Yes. Are you devout? Yes. Three times like that. Ant three times the godmother has to say the Lord’s Prayer. Some read from the bible, others shine by knowing it by heart. As quicker as better but it takes it time and give the liturgy a mystical, nearly imploring note while the mother undress the child. A helper provides a basket filled with water. Someone else brings hot water from a thermos flask so cold and hot mixed up to become a pleasure temperature in the font. Meanwhile gathered up, the pope has rolled up his sleeves and blesses the water with a drop of olive oil (out of the hands of godmother) and a bit holy water (out of the precious decorated bottle). Then he got the child on his arms. Here at the latest, most of the children starts heart-rending and protesting to cry. This causes some contemptuous looks of the audience but however, everyone here has got through it. So the pope goes on with a mild smile in his face. The child is sprinkled three times more or less intensive depending of the child’s defense. Then three locks will be cut and symbolical burned by the candle. At latest now you are lucky to follow this ceremony under the open sky because it stinks a bit.
The charred hair falls, ups, into the font, the pope cleans his hands with the soap over the font and the helper (who has looked ahead already by saving a bit of the water from the bucket) give fresh water over the hands of the pope. Same time the baptized child is dressed into the new suit which is a gift from its godmother and is presented again to the audience. The people give a warm welcome to the new member of the Christian Community. A white string links, symbolical and real, child and godmother. The pope now celebrates by walking around them. Time by time the people crosses themselves in harmony. The white string is blessed and godmother got the golden little necklace with the cross to give it to her baptism child who will dress it all over life or at least for celebrates and hold in honor. More blessings and praying from the pope, the audience is blessed again with well smelled incense and the bible is shown again to the people. Then the liturgy gets its end and the crowd breaks off slowly. Walking along the baskets of gifts, where helpers take care that everybody will get his giveaway. Here the guest himself leave his present to the child – mostly plastic toys, as bigger as better. Well known envelopes (with money) are not usual (in opposite to weddings). The child passed round because everybody wants to make a nice photo.
Now its time to go home, or if you have got an invitation, to drive convoy to the restaurant for a dinner. There mostly its decorated with balloons and nowadays an exiting varied menu is made for the guests (in opposite to old manner of as much as possible Pilafi and meet). Pilafi? That means rice, boiled not with water but with fresh chicken broth and a few drops of fresh lemon – a delicious taste! Depending of the plan, mostly there runs a small program for all the children, meanwhile the adults’ presents themselves and chatting, making plans and much more. When you have a deep look you will recognize the perfect symbiosis between tradition and church, community and your own interests.