Sunday, March 14, 2010


This morning our family attended a really interesting ceremony. One of the women in our PEPS group is Indian, and it is an Indian tradition to have a ceremony to celebrate a baby's first solid food. It's akin to christening; family and friends gather, a whole lot of food is involved, and there are certain rituals to be followed: the baby starts with sweet rice pudding, then eats little bits of five other foods made especially for the occasion. Then each of the relatives--grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles--takes turns giving the baby a tiny bit of food.

It was really sweet, and the baby was adorable, dressed in a tiny sari with anklets, a headdress and a little tiny ring on her hand. And boy, was she ready for the food! She lunged for the spoon with great enthusiasm :-).

Years ago, I attended a bris, and at the time I thought that it was a really nice to have a ceremony to celebrate your baby's arrival and welcome him into the community. I've never been to a christening, but I would imagine it expresses a similar joy.

When my sweetie and I got married, I asked our officiant what she believed, since she was creating a nonreligious ceremony for us, and she said, "I believe in ritual." She meant that there is something valuable in marking the important events in our lives, and gathering friends and family to make a public celebration. When we were planning the wedding, more than one person wondered why we were bothering to have a wedding, since we weren't religious. Apparently God wants you to spend lots of money on a big party, but without the need to appease him, sensible people would just go to City Hall. Or maybe if you don't believe in God, than there's nothing to celebrate, not even your love. I don't know; this question baffled me each time I heard it. But ultimately, I agree with our officiant: ritual is important.

Some part of me regrets that our cutie will not have any welcoming ceremonies. But he does have godparents, if you can call them "god"parents: my sweetie's brother and his wife. They will take care of our cutie if anything should happen to us. I suppose if they were godparents in the usual sense, they would also promise to raise him in the appropriate faith. We would all stand up in a church and they would swear this. Instead we just called them on the phone and they agreed that we could put their names in our wills.

But, thinking about it now, I realize that, in a way, they are true godparents, because when we considered which of my sweetie's brothers to ask, we chose the one who, like us, is an atheist, and that fact did play a significant role in our choice. I'm not militant about it; I've never in my life attempted to convince someone that God doesn't exist, even though I can't even count how many times people have tried to do the opposite to me (ranging from the combative to the infuriatingly smug "You'll understand the truth when you're ready." Have I ever, ever, said to anyone that should they come down with cancer or something, they'll realize that life is random and God is a lie? Never). But, it's important to me; having a kid has only reminded me how important.

Even if we don't have the rituals to prove it.


Nancy said...

Isn't there a Chinese custom about having a big party to celebrate a baby's 100th day of life? Or is it Korean? I don't recall any religious overtones, just a celebration of the kid making it that far without being defenestrated. :-)

Nopinkertons said...

There is a red egg and ginger party for the baby's one month birthday, but it's not something I am terribly familiar with--our family was pretty Americanized, so Chinese customs don't mean a lot for me. Also, I can't imagine I could have planned a party when our cutie was one month old--I could barely put clothes on in the morning :-).