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Secular Baby Namings & Welcoming Ceremonies:

Secular Baby Namings and Welcoming Ceremonies

Every community has its own way of celebrating the birth of a baby. Many of these welcoming ceremonies are religious, such as Christenings and Bris Milah, but the desire to celebrate new children with a formal ceremony is also shared by many non-religious families. Families who are non-religious -- or religious but interested in including friends and relatives from multi-cultural backgrounds in an inclusive ceremony -- can hold a secular Baby Naming Ceremony to welcome newborn children to the family and community.

A humanist naming, also known as a "child dedication" or "Welcome to the World" ceremony, provides an opportunity to celebrate the birth and make a formal expression of the family’s hopes and aspirations for the child.

Naming Ceremonies may also appoint adult mentors for the child. A mentor is a secular alternative to a Christian godparent, taking a special interest in the welfare and happiness of the child. Alternative terms to "mentor" include "guide parent" and "supporting adult."

Naming ceremonies can be conducted by a family member or friend, or by a celebrant from a humanist group. For a reasonable fee, a humanist celebrant will people plan and compose their ceremony and then conduct it on the day.

An article about what is involved in a typical humanist naming ceremony can be found here. An example of an actual humanist naming ceremony is available here.

Welcoming Ceremonies for Adoptions and Step Children

Secular welcoming ceremonies are a beautiful way to celebrate the adoption of a child or to embrace stepchildren into a newly-formed family. Sadly, many religions with wonderful traditions for welcoming newborn babies lack ceremonies for adoptions and stepchildren, even though the arrival of adoptees and stepchildren is just as joyful and important as the birth of a child.

If the adopted child is a baby, a simple baby naming ceremony may be appropriate, but if the child is significantly older a different kind of ceremony is needed. The ceremony can include meaningful input from the child, and the taking of the family name, rather than the giving of a personal name, is recognized as the start of a new family relationship by all involved.

There are many different ways to welcome stepchildren into a new blended family. The focus of the ceremony is usually a special welcome of the child into the family and an expression of love and commitment by the new family.

Welcoming ceremonies can be profoundly moving when they embrace a child who is old enough to be an active participant.

Naming Ceremony Content

A humanist naming or welcome ceremony is composed by the parents. Parents state their love and commitment to their child and declare hopes for their future. Mentors or supporting adults are appointed. And poetry or prose may be read, and music played.

For a newborn baby there will usually be a naming, which identifies the child as a unique individual. Often, the meaning of the name is explained.

There are many creative ways to make a welcoming ceremony unique and memorable:

  • Siblings and other family members can make commitments
  • Participants can each write a message in a book for the child to read in later years
  • Symbolic gifts can be presented as keepsakes
  • A tree can be planted that will grown along with the Present symbolic gifts as keepsakes

An excellent step-by-step guide to humanist naming and welcoming ceremonies is: New Arrivals: Guide to Nonreligious Naming Ceremonies.

An example of an actual humanist naming ceremony is available here.