The christening and the baptism usually occur at the same time, and are regulated according to the practices of the special church where the parents attend worship. As these are quite varied, it will be sufficient only to indicate the forms and customs which society imposes at such times.
GODPARENTS OR SPONSORS.
In the Episcopal Church there are two, and sometimes three, godparents or sponsors. If the child is a boy, there are two godfathers and one godmother. If a girl, two godmothers and one godfather. The persons selected for godparents should be near relatives or friends of long and close standing, and should be members of the same church into which the child is baptized. The maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather usually act as sponsors for the first child, the maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother for the second. A person invited to act as godparent should not refuse without good reason. If the grandparents are not selected, it is an act of courtesy to select the godmother, and allow her to designate the godfather. Young persons should not stand sponsors to an infant; and none should offer to act unless their superior position warrants them in so doing.
PRESENTS FROM GODFATHERS.
The sponsors must make their godchild a present of some sort—a silver mug, a knife, spoon and fork, a handsomely-bound bible, or perhaps a costly piece of lace or embroidery suitable for infants’ wear. The godfather may give a cup, with name engraved, and the godmother the christening robe and cap.
THE CHRISTENING CEREMONY.
Upon entering the church the babe is carried first in the arms of its nurse. Next come the sponsors, and after them the father and mother, if she is able to be present. The invited guests follow. In taking their places the sponsors stand, the godfather on the right and the godmother on the left of the child. When the question is asked, “Who are the sponsors for the child?” the proper persons should merely bow their heads without speaking.
In the Roman Catholic Church baptism takes place at as early a date as possible. If the child does not seem to be strong, a priest is sent for at once, and the ceremony is performed at the mother’s bedside. If, on the other hand, the child is healthy, it is taken to the church within a few days after its birth. In Protestant churches the ceremony of baptism is usually deferred until the mother is able to be present. If the ceremony is performed at home, a carriage must be sent for the clergyman, and retained to convey him back again after the ceremony is concluded. A luncheon may follow the christening, though a collation of cake and wine will fill all the requirements of etiquette. It is the duty of the godfather to propose the health of the infant.