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How Does Your Faith Group Celebrate The Birth Of A Child?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Father JOHN JILLIONS is a professor in the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University.

Traditionally, the priest is called to the home or hospital on the day of the birth to say special prayers for the mother and child. We ask God to restore the mother’s “strength of body and soul”, and, on the first day of its life, that the child may “in due season come to adore You.”

For a full 40 days (symbolizing completeness), the mother and child don’t go to church but are meant to stay home, away from routine commitments — even church — and focus exclusively on the bonding of a new life in the family. They don’t go to church, but the church — in the person of the priest — comes to them.

On the eighth day he comes to the house to pray a blessing as the child is formally named. But God’s name too is remembered. “Grant O Lord, that your Holy Name may remain unrejected by this child, and that in due time he may be united to your holy church through baptism.”

Finally, on or about the 40th day the mother and newborn come to the church for the baby’s first entrance into the worshipping community of the church, and there are special “churching” prayers. “Bless this child which has been born of her. Increase him, sanctify him, enlighten him, give virtue to him and endow him with good understanding. For you have brought him into being and have shown him the physical light, and you have appointed him to be granted the spiritual light in due time….”

Of course in celebrating the birth of a child there are the normal baby showers and visits and presents, but the real celebration is around baptism. Children are fully included in Orthodox church life and receive communion from the time they are baptized, not waiting until age seven or eight. Their inclusion underlines the conviction that the experience of God is accessible to all.

BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

The word “prayer” is a bit imprecise in the Sikh context.

The Sikh guide to daily conduct or the Rehit Maryada outlines what should happen after a child is born in a Sikh family.

Sikhs believe that the human body is a gift from God and is his perfect creation. To reflect an acceptance of God’s will, Sikhs maintain unshorn hair and also do not practice circumcision.

Sikhs reject the practice of marking a period of ‘pollution’ for the mother which was a common practice in Indian culture during which new mothers were considered unclean or untouchable. When the mother and child are physically able, the family travel to the Gurdwara or Sikh place of worship and perform the Naam Sanskaar or Sikh naming ceremony. After verses from Sri Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh scripture) are sung, an ardaas or prayer is performed seeking God’s blessings to name the newborn. Then Sri Guru Granth Sahib is opened at random and the first verse to appear is recited. Based on the first letter of the first word of the verse, the name of the child is selected. Members of the congregation suggest possible names based on that letter and the parents select a name. The name is then announced to the congregation. Regardless of what name is selected, all Sikh names are automatically given a suffix. Sikh boys are given the name Singh meaning lion and Sikh girls are given the name Kaur or princess/royalty. This practice was initiated by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh to signify equality and to break the barriers of caste and class.

At the conclusion of the naming ceremony, parshaad or a sweet sacramental food prepared from flour, clarified butter and sugar is distributed to the congregation. Often the naming is also followed by a langar or communal meal where free vegetarian food is shared by all present.

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

The very first thing that occurs after a birth is for the parents and family to be delighted. That delight is expressed with a sacred blessing thanking God for this great happening. That is a very private event.

Then, the family moves to the next phase of celebration, the common denominator for which is the naming of the child. For a male, the name is usually given at the circumcision. When for health reasons the circumcision is delayed for more than a few days, the name would be given prior to the circumcision, at a time when the Torah (Parchment Scroll containing the Five Books of Moses) is read at a prayer service, be it a Monday, a Thursday, or a Sabbath.

For a female, the name has traditionally been given, ideally (but not always), at the first opportunity of the Torah being read. A name can obviously be given in the quiet of a family living room, but bringing it into the synagogue, and attaching it to the Torah reading, invests the naming with a sense of holiness. And holy it is, because this is the way the child will be identified forever.

Many families supplement the public naming of a girl with another gathering at which special prayers are recited, and meaningful words of reflection and thanks are shared, followed by... food!

Back to the circumcision, for boys only. This is done on the eighth day, as long as there are no health issues which stand in the way. According to some commentators, the eighth day was chosen as it is the earliest time it is safe to do, and because it is so early, less painful for the child than at a later time.

The circumcision event is fraught with mixed emotions. The family and friends are obviously happy that the child is being “covenanted,” but somewhat anxious because of the procedure, involving the most delicate part of the anatomy. The anxiety is lifted once the procedure is completed, after which the celebration of the event escalates into worry-free joy.

Because the child really had no say in the matter, one cannot really claim that the child has agreed to enter the covenant of Abraham. The child has been entered, no more. The child reaffirms this covenant when reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah and then deciding to embrace the faith. In a definite sense, the joy of childbirth extends for many years.

RADHIKA SEKAR has a PhD in Religious Studies and taught Hinduism at Carleton University for several years. She is a disciple of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission.

Birth rituals belong to the samskaras that commemorate the stages of life. Hindu birth rituals not only welcome newborns but also celebrate a couples passage into parenthood.

It is understood that the fetus can register sounds and vibrations from the surroundings by the seventh month. The pumsavana rite is performed at this stage, during which soft but powerful mantras are recited to send positive vibrations to the child in the womb. It is accompanied by the simontham (parting of the hair) for the benefit of the mother-to-be. Her hair is parted in the middle and the husband applies kum-kum (red dot) to her forehead to invoke the Goddess Lakshmi, who resides there.

It is important that the pregnant woman maintain a positive attitude especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Therefore the women organize a social function to encourage the mother-to-be. Tamil Hindus hold a Vallaikapu (protective thread) in which the she is adorned in a new sari and flowers. A protective thread is tied around her wrist and her friends gather to offer her delicacies, sing songs and generally boost her spirits.

Other Hindu groups have similar functions. Punjabi Hindus hold the Godh bharna (filling the lap)ceremony where the mother and mother-in-law fill the lap of the mother to be, represented by the palav of her sari, with auspicious items like a coconut marked with a red swastika, moong, betel nut and dollar or quarter coins.

The naming ceremony is held on the eleventh day of the child’s birth. The father, or maternal uncle, whispers the name in his/her ear or writes it in a plate of rice. In some groups the family priest selects the first letter of the baby’s name in accordance to the date and time of birth. Homa (havan) for the child’s longevity is performed and some sects hold a Sathyanarayana Puja to thank God for the safe delivery and precious gift.

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

Catholics have two practices that coincide closely with pregnancy and childbirth: special blessings and the sacrament of baptism. The Church recognizes how important and special are these moments for families who are preparing to welcome a child into the world and so we have many very beautiful prayers and blessings surrounding the circumstances of pregnancy, birth and also adoption. There are also special blessings for families who are coping with the tragic loss of a child due to a miscarriage.

Catholics have practiced infant baptism for a very long time in the Church’s history because in the days before good prenatal health care and widespread access to hospitals, there was a high rate of infant mortality. We take very seriously the great commission Jesus gave to his disciples before he returned to heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mtt 28:19-20)

This is so important that even today with modern health care we do not want to delay establishing an intimate relationship with Christ in his Church. We believe that it is through the sacrament of baptism that a child (or an older person who is baptized as an adult) becomes a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, a sister or brother of Jesus Christ, an heir to the Kingdom of God and a member of the Catholic Church. The Church wants Catholic Christians to have the help and sanctifying presence of God’s grace in these moments and to establish for our children a lifelong relationship with Christ in his Church.

KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre for Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

I have been to my share of baptisms, out of respect for friends and relatives. I don’t enjoy them — it has more to do with my apathy towards formality rather than their religious theme. I do find it objectionable though, to see little humans, decorated in wedding gowns or suits, splashed, bathed or dunked into water — without any choice in the matter. I appreciate the symbolism but couldn’t it wait until the child reaches an age where their consent to join the family faith is more significant than their parents judgement; “thou shalt be done?”

My favourite part of the day, particularly with my Portuguese side of the family, is the post-service assembly where we are guilted into consuming delicious food and homemade plonk — in vast quantities.

Humans have marked rites of passage long before religion borrowed them. Some humanists hold a religious-free, welcome-to-the-world celebration called a “baby naming ceremony.” It is a serious, yet happy occasion to mark their commitment to the newly arrived as well as a formal way to introduce them to friends and family. Humanist officiants personalize the event with music and poetry and Guide — parents are sometimes nominated for the supportive back up role as adults who have a special interest in the child.

The only issue I have with both ceremonies, besides my distaste for rituals, is the assumption, by some parents, that their child will follow their worldview from womb to tomb. It is our duty to educate our kids about belief and non-belief and to respect their decision, even if it challenges our sensibilities.

Call me a curmudgeon, but attending a baby-naming ceremony isn’t my cup of tea either, although I could be tempted if there was a sinfully rich devils food cake on the menu.

Rev. RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple Sangha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.

The followers of the Buddha represent hundreds of cultural groups around the world. Since Buddhist practice, tends to be built over local custom, especially in secular affairs like child-birth, it would be impossible to describe one ceremony as Buddhist. Even within my Tendai tradition, Chinese, Japanese, American and Canadian influences would make comparisons superficial.

If asked to officiate at such a celebration as a priest, the most important considerations would begin with a consideration of the meaning of this child to the family. This would include the parents, and also the larger extended family. I would ensure various members of the family had some opportunity to greet and offer their wishes to parents and child. This is a family event and an opportunity to welcome a new member and strengthen bonds.

The family, I assume, would want me to contribute some spiritual significance, and so I would use common elements of any Buddhist service. The service always begins with an offering, usually incense, which symbolizes the transience of life, This is followed by a salutation, that is, an acknowledgment of great dharma figures, always including Shakyamuni.

Next is going for refuge, a central ritual for Buddhists, wherein we renew our commitment to dedicate our lives to the service and salvation of all beings. After refuge-taking, we would acknowledge our failings in fulfilling these commitments and affirm our future efforts to succeed. The service would conclude with a wish that whatever benefit or “merit”might accrue from our actions be made available to others so they may obtain the Truth.

I would further include a combination of some appropriate Buddhist text, perhaps something from the Jataka Tales, the stories of the many births that preceded the life of Shakyamuni, along with a few comments of my own related to this unique child.

ABDUL RASHID is a member of the Ottawa Muslim community, the Christian Muslim Dialogue and the Capital Region Interfaith Council.

The birth of a child is a precious gift bestowed on us by our Creator. It is an occasion that is celebrated in all faiths and cultures.

From a faith perspective, the celebration and rituals at the birth of a child among Muslims are relatively simple. Almost all of these stem from the tradition of the Holy Prophet of Islam.

Soon after the birth of a child, the parent whispers in the baby’s ears the words of the Muslim call for prayer, which includes “God is great, there is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer”). It is also a tradition to let the baby taste something sweet like honey.

Usually, other rituals take place around the seventh day of birth. Among Muslims, circumcision of infant boys is a religious tradition, although the practice did not originate with them, but the prophet of Islam called it an act “akin to fitra”, that is, an act which stems from a natural instinct for cleanliness. On this occasion, the baby’s head is shaved.

It is the right of every baby to be given a beautiful name. Finally, it is part of the celebration to sacrifice a sheep. The meat is divided among relatives, neighbours and the poor. All this is, of course, accompanied by congratulatory messages, which often include prayers for the health, happiness and long life of the baby, and gifts from relatives and friends.

There may, of course, be some ritualistic practices which stem from the cultural environment in which Muslims live across the world.

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

I wouldn’t use the phrase “recruit new members.”

Our church celebrates the birth of a child through what we call “child dedications.” We had two child dedications last Sunday at our church. Let me explain what happened and what it signified.

During our morning service, I invited two families who had asked to dedicate a child to come to the front of the church. As the parents stood with their children (one had a baby girl, the other a baby boy), I explained to the congregation our understanding of child dedications.

We see child dedications as a way for parents to publicly thank God for the precious gift of a child. It’s also a way for parents to indicate their desire to raise their child in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

I reminded the congregation that dedicating a child to God doesn’t make him or her a Christian. Becoming a Christian requires personal faith in Jesus. As John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Someone has rightly said that God has no grandchildren; He only has children. Each person must decide to trust Christ and become God’s child.

After this reminder, I invited the congregation to stand. In this way, we symbolize our desire to stand with these parents as they seek to raise their children in God’s ways. Then I prayed for each of the parents, asking God to give them wisdom and strength. I also prayed for the children, asking God to bring them to a place of faith in Christ early in their lives.

The child dedication ceremony is brief, but it’s meaningful — not only for the family dedicating a child, but also for our entire church family.

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/d...uals+signify/3569610/story.html#ixzz10QTLhRmq
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