Frequently Asked Questions
Read below for answers to our
frequently asked questions about Orthodox baptisms. If you have a
question that is not answered below, we’re happy to assist! Email your question to email@example.com.
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Preparing for the Baptism:
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# What items do
I need for the christening ceremony?
You will need the following for the
(1) Baptismal Candles (essential)
Provided by the godparent, one large decorated candle for the ceremony and
smaller white candles to be carried by the children who circle the font. The
traditional decoration of a baptismal candle includes a large bow of ribbon or
tulle with streamers.
(2) Martyrika (traditional but not essential)
Also known as martirika, or witness pins – these are small lapel crosses handed
out at the end of the ceremony and worn by guests as proof of witnessing the
baptism. The traditional pin is made of white, pink or blue ribbon and features
a tiny cross or icon in the center.
(3) Bombonieres (traditional
but not essential)
Also known as boubounieres or candy favors – are almond candy favors given to
each guest after the baptism by either the godparent or the parents of the
baptized child. Styles can range widely for these favors. Traditional favors
are simple white, pink or blue puffs of tulle tied with a ribbon and filled
with white Jordan almonds. However, styles can range widely and can extend to
the elaborate, distinctive and fun. The gift of bombonieres is an Eastern
Orthodox tradition over 3,000 years old.
Filled with koufeta – jordan almonds – the favors are given
as tokens of good fortune and happiness. Bombonieres are symobolic of life with
their bittersweet taste. The sugar coating represents the hope that life will
be blessed with more sweetness than bitterness. Bombonieres are always filled
with an odd number of almonds. The odd number is indivisible and symbolizes the
union and indivisibility of the newly married couple.
(4) 2 white hand towels (1
towel at least is essential, 2 is traditional)
They hang on the sides of the baptismal font and are used to
wipe hands during the ceremony.
(5) 1 large white bath towel (essential)
The large towel is for drying off the child before dressing
in the baptismal outfit.
(6) 1 white oil sheet (essential)
Used immediately after the dunking of the child in the
baptismal font. One Godparent will hold the oil sheet outspread and the
priest will place the child into the oil sheet when finished at the baptismal
font. The oil sheet protects the Godparent's clothing and wraps the child.
(7) 1 bar of soap (essential)
Used to wash the oil off the hands of the Godparents and the
priest after the communion.
(8a) 1 small oil bottle (essential,
but church may be able to lend one)
Olive oil is poured into the oil bottle and then blessed by
the priest. The Holy Oil is then used by the priest to baptize the
child. The priest will pour the Holy Oil into the baptismal water.
(8b) Olive oil (non-essential
if church provides the oil)
Any 100% pure virgin olive oil can be used for the
baptism. You can purchase any 100% pure
virgin olive oil from a store and bring it with you to the church, where upon
the priest will bless it during the service.
(9) 1 baptismal cross and chain (essential)
Traditionally a gold or white gold cross. Chain and cross is put onto the child at the
alter by a Godparent. This happens after the child is baptized and
dressed in his/her baptismal outfit.
(10) Proof of Godparent’s current good standing in the Orthodox church (essential)
Needed by the church to prove the Godparents are Orthodox
(11) Baptismal outfit (essential)
The baptismal wear consists of the outfit, the shoes and the
socks. Traditionally undergarments are
also used (a onesie or specialty cloth undershirt and bloomers) that can absorb
the Holy oil on the baby and provide a protective layering between the (oily) skin
of the baby and the baptismal outfit. Whether
or not the outfit comes with a bonnet or hat, many also choose to buy an oil
liner cap for the baby’s head to absorb the holy oil and protect the clothing
of anyone holding the baby. All clothing must be white.
(12) Pre-Ceremony outfit (non-essential)
This is the outfit that the baby wears to the church and in
which she or he begins the service. The
service begins at the doors to the church from the narthex where the baby is
presented to the church. As the baby is
likely to be photographed during this portion of the ceremony – and as she /he
is being presented to the church, it is traditional to wear a nice outfit. This outfit does not have to be white – it can
be any color!
And always a good idea to pack baby wipes and extra diapers. You may need it to change the baby when changing the baby into his/her baptismal outfit.
# What are the requirements for a
A Godparent - or sponsor - must be:
- At least 12
years of age
- Baptized and/or chrismated in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church
- if married, married in the Greek Orthodox Church
- if divorced, has received an Eccelesiastical Divorce
- is a current parishioner in good standing (a member /steward) of any parish
in the Greek Orthodox Church.
# What paperwork is required for the
Although it may differ from church
to church, the following paperwork is generally needed to be submitted to the
church prior to the date of the event:
- A copy of his/her Ecclesiastical
Marriage Certificate, if applicable
- A copy of his/her Ecclesiastical
Divorce, if applicable
- A copy of his/her Baptismal
- A Certificate of Membership ((If
from a church different than where the baptism is taking place). This
certificate must be
- signed by his/her parish priest and printed
on the church’s letterhead
- current for the same year in which
the baptism is scheduled
For the parents of the baptized child:
- Application for Baptism or
- Selection of a chosen Greek Orthodox
Christian name of a saint (if the legal name is not a Christian name of a
saint, a baptized name must be chosen).
No nicknames or secular names can be used.
# Who pays for what for a baptism?
Our most popular FAQ! There is no absolute for who pays for what,
but we can offer general guidelines on what is traditionally done. Each
situation is unique. As a base foundation, the Godparent assumes the
financial responsibilities of the baptism until the parents of the baptized
child offer to pay for items. It
is most common for the costs to be split between the Godparents and the parents
with each picking up the cost for certain elements of the event.
The Godparent traditionally pays for:
- The baptismal outfit (gown or suit).
- The oil & towel set (lathopana)
which includes the oil bottle, oil sheet, and baptismal towels.
- A cross necklace for the child to
keep for his/her lifetime.
The Godparent OR the parent pays
- The jordan almond/boubouniera
Martyrika / witness pins.
The ladopana / baptismal candles –
traditionally one large one (one is adequate for either 1 or 2 Godparents) and
2 smaller candles for any children or other participants who may be up at the
The parents of the child typically
- The reception after the
- The pre-ceremony outfit
Any gratuities to the priest or any
charge for use of a church facility (although this traditionally is a
responsibility of the godparents, many parents of the child nowadays assume
I plan to tip the priest for performing the baptism? If so – what is the appropriate amount?
Yes, it is customary to tip the priest
who conducts your baptism. Tips vary
from region to region. In the NYC
region, a standard amount for a tip can be anywhere from $100 to $300 for the
priest (very typical amount can be
$100-$150). Some choose to give a gift if they
feel uncomfortable tipping.
- If you do not wish to tip the
priest, it is appropriate to make a donation to the church.
- You may be requested to make a
donation to the church for a facility charge for use of the church.
- The psalti (ψάλτης
/ cantor) is the man who sings at the church. He
usually gets tipped too - and a typical amount is $50.
- There may be a third man at the
service - the neikoro - who helps the priest. The neikoro is sometimes also
referred to as the Custodian. If so, he is traditionally tipped to - in
an amount similar to the psalti.
- The tip can be paid for by either
the parents of the child being baptized or by the Godparents.
the parents of the Godchild get a gift for the Godparents?
It is traditional that the parents of the baptized child give a gift to the
Godparents as a thank you for doing them the honor of taking their child under
their religious wing. While it is a great honor to be chosen as a
Godparent for a child, it is also a great responsibility. A proper gift
of thanks is appropriate at the baptism. The gift can be anything of
choosing and can range from a frame for a picture of the godchild, to
kitchenware, to homeware, or to something specific for the Godparent's
taste. A religious gift (icon) is always appropriate as well.
# Does the cross need to be blessed before the baptism?
No - the cross necklace for the child to be baptized does not need to be blessed before the baptism.
#Can I wash the oil sheet and towel
before the actual baptism?
Yes, before the service, if you
wish, you can wash the oil sheet and the towel. It is once the Holy Oil
from the baptism touches the towel and oil sheet that special care needs to be
taken. Post-ceremony, the oil sheet and towel should be washed separately
in a bucket and then the bucket water disposed of on the property of the
Godchild's home (the Holy Oil thus being washed into the bucket water and then
being transferred into the land where the child lives). If you do not
prefer to wash the clothes in a bucket, you can wash them by themselves in the
washing machine - and move the drain tube to empty into a bucket and then
dispose of that water on soil at the home of the Godchild.
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# During the
Baptism:*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
#What happens during the Baptism?
The child is presented to the church
The child is immersed in the
baptismal font three times, symbolizing the three days Christ spent in the
tomb. This event is a reenactment of
Christ's baptism, death and Resurrection.
After immersion, the priest places
the child in the open arms of the godparent, who holds a new white sheet as a
symbol of the soul's purity.
Immediately following the baptism in
the font, the priest administers a second sacrament: Chrismation, where the child receives the gift
of the Holy Spirit with miron, a special oil blessed by the Ecumenical
Patriarch. Three locks are tonsured (cut) from the child's hair in the form of
The child is taken into a dressing
room in the church and put into his/her baptismal outfit by the Godparents or
While the child is being changed, the
baptismal candles are lit.
The dressed child is brought back
into the church and the priest, Godparents, baptized child, and chosen children
walk around the baptismal font three times.
The reading of scriptures takes
place and the priest administers a third sacrament, communion, to the child.
# How long is an Orthodox baptism?
The actual Orthodox baptism lasts about 30-40 minutes. The entire time at the church may last longer if the priest starts a bit later or if you stay at the church after the ceremony tp chat with guests or to take photos in front of the church altar.
#Can you show
me photos of what happens during the Baptism?
Baptismal Photo: Photo depicting beginning of baptism when the child is presented to the church at the entryway:
Baptismal Photo: Photo depicting the next step of a baptism, when the priest pours oil into the cupped hands of the Godparents, who then wipe oil on the child's body. The oiled baby is then immersed three times in the baptismal font.
much oil gets used during a baptism? How big does the oil bottle need to
- A little Holy oil goes a long way!
About 3-4 ounces of Holy oil is used during a baptism. Blessed
Celebration's oil bottles hold enough oil for the ceremony. They are a
minimum of 6 ounces and size up from there.
Who can hold the baby during the baptism? #
The baby may be held by anyone during the baptism - but only the Godparent can spread the oil on the baby. The Godparents hold the baby at the beginning of the ceremony and then the priest will hold the baby. After the dunking, the baby is placed into the arms of the Godparent with the oil sheet. If there is only one Godparent, then the Godparent will spread the oil on the baby and another designated person will hold the oil sheet to catch the baby. When the baby comes out of the dressing room in his/her baptismal gown, the baby can be held by any caretaker - a grandmother for instance - brought to the baptismal font. When the baby is being tonsured, he/she will be held by the Godparent.
signs the Ecclesiastical Baptismal Certificate?
One (never two) godparents signs the Ecclesiastical
Baptismal Certificate. If both
godparents are Orthodox, a decision will need to be made which of the two will sign the
certificate. If one godparent is
Orthodox and the other is a non-Orthodox (and with limited participation in the
ceremony), the Orthodox godparent signs the certificate. A non-Orthodox Christian’s name will not
appear on the certificate as a godparent of the child.
The certificate is signed at the end of the baptismal
ceremony. The priest will present the
certificate for signing.
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# After the Baptism
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is the Godparent’s responsibility after the baptism? #
- The godparent should arrange with the
parents to bring the newly baptized person (infant, child or adult) to Holy
Communion for three consecutive Divine Liturgies at any Orthodox Christian
church. The baptismal candle used in
the ceremony should be brought to the church for the three communions. The candle should be lit when you go up for
- The godparent should nurture the newly
baptized child or adult into the Orthodox Christian faith. This can be done through regular attendance
at worship services, teaching your godchild about the Orthodox faith, and
encouraging the child to participate in religious education and youth ministry
- The godparent should attend godparent events
at the church with their godchild.
- The godparent should remember their godchild
at holidays, birthdays and on his or her name day.
having a reception after the baptism ceremony.
Am I supposed to invite the priest who did the baptism? #
Yes! It is customary to invite the
priest to any reception after the service.
The priest may or may not attend depending upon his schedule, but it
proper and expected to extend the invitation.
do I do with the baptism candle after the baptism?
The godparents must bring the baptized baby to church for three communions
after the baptism. Ideally, these communions are taken
consecutively the first three Sundays after the baptism. If the
Godparent(s) or Godchild is not available for a particular Sunday, then
communion should be taken the next available Sunday.
The baptismal candle is brought with the Godchild to the church each of these
three communions. A few minutes before communion starts, the Godparent
should light the candle using the flame from a lit candle in the narthex.
The lit candle should be brought up to the alter during communion.
It may be blown out at any point after communion. Special note: the
Godparent should carry the child on the right side of his or her body as he/she
approaches the alter. If there are two Godparents, one should carry the
baby to the alter, the other should hold the lit candle. At the time of
communion, the Godparent should provide the priest wtih the baptismal name of
the baby right before the baby accepts communion.
# What do I do with the baptismal clothing after the baptism? Can I
After the baptism, the baptismal clothes - or vaftistika / baptistika -
contain Holy Oil on the garment. As such, the Holy Oil cannot be disposed
of through a washing in a washing machine.
best way to wash the garment post Sacrament is to do a wash by hand in a
bucket. You can wash the clothing with regular detergent in a bucket and
poor the washed water outside onto the ground. Another option used is to
wash the garment in a washing machine but move the drain tube to empty into a
bucket (rather than into a sink) and then dispose of the washing machine water
onto the ground of the Godchild's home. You can also wash the
Lathopana (towels and oil sheet) the same way. as these, too, contain Holy Oil
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# General Information About Baptisms #
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# Why is a baptism done?
Baptism cleanses an individual's soul of original sin. The sacrament of
baptism and chrismation brings great happiness to the Orthodox Christian family
as, once baptized, a child can begin life in the Christian Orthodox faith.
a person who is not baptized or chrismated in the Greek/Eastern Orthodox
Christian faith serve as a Godparent?
A non Greek/Eastern Orthodox person may have limited
participation in the baptismal service but may not fully participate in the
sacrament. This is because they do not
profess the same Creed (faith) as Orthodox Christians. A Godparent who is a full Eastern Orthodox
Christian must be named who can fully participate in the sacraments of the
baptism. If there are two Godparents
and one is not Christian Orthodox, the Christian Orthodox Godparent will be the
one to serve as the official sponsor – and can not rub the oil on the baby or sign
the baptismal certificate.
# Who may not serve as a
Godparent? A person may not serve as a
- If married civilly and the Church has not blessed
- If he/she is civilly divorced and has not been granted
an ecclesiastical divorce
- If he/she is not a steward of a Greek Orthodox church
in good standing
- For any other reason he/she is not in communion with
the Greek Orthodox Church
two sets of families baptize each other’s children? #
- Technically, yes, it is permitted
that two sets of families can baptize each other’s children. However, the church does not advise that this
be done and certain clergy will not conduct a baptism between families that are
already koumbaroi (God-family). The
Orthodox preference, ideally, is that our spiritual families expand thus spreading the faith and
spiritual bonding as opposed to contracting it within families that already
have a spiritual bond/relationship, i.e. they already are koumbaroi.
# Can two god siblings marry?
Can a god brother and god sister
This question is answered here in
the baptismal section, because the baptism does affect how two families can
interact in the future.)
- Per Orthodox
canon law, a god brother and god sister cannot marry. A person is a god sibling with someone when their
parents have baptized a child in their family.
If family A has 2 children and family B has 2 children – and either of
the parents in family A baptized a child in family B, then those 4 siblings are
considered godchildren. Children from
family A cannot be married to children in family B in the Orthodox church. The
families have been joined under God by baptism and thus cannot be married in
the Orthodox faith.
# What are the non-permissible dates of the calendar year to hold a
Baptisms may not be conducted on the following days unless it is
absolutely necessary and permission is obtained from the Metropolis
1. December 25th - January 6th
2. Holy Week
3. Major Feast Days
4. August 1-15
# What is a good gift for my
gift from a godparemt to a godchild should be something that is meaningful to
the nature of your special religious connection. A religious education book is always a great
gift. For children, Orthodox picture
bibles make wonderful gifts. Religious
bracelets, saint cards, or a framed picture of you and the child is also a
wonderful keepsake. A special and
extremely appropriate lifetime gift for your godchild is an icon – especially
one of his/her patron saint. For a list
of icons made for Blessed Celebration by Orthodox nuns, please visit our icon
# What is the difference between a
Greek Orthodox baptism and a Roman Catholic baptism?
The nature of the baptism is the
same for both the Roman Catholics as the Greek Orthodox baptism: It is the
cleansing of sin from the baptized individual and the beginning of membership
into the Church. Both religions recognize baptism as a Sacrament.
Both churches conduct a Trinitarian baptism – or acknowledge the Trinity
of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both churches pledge the baptized
individual to the Service of God forever.
Some of the differences between a
Greek Orthodox and a Roman Catholic baptism include:
- The Greek Orthodox church conducts deep water
baptism. The Roman Catholic church does not have deep water
- In the Greek Orthodox baptism, the individual is
tonsured (the cutting of the hair) but is not in the Roman Catholic
- The baptized individual in the Greek Orthodox church
must receive a cross to wear.
- The Godparents are obligated by the church to care for
the raising of the child should the parents perish, at least with regard
to his or her religious education. Godparents are considered to be
second parents to the baptized individual in the Greek Orthodox church.
- The Sacrament of Chrismation is the equivalent of the
Sacrament of Confirmation in the Roman Catholic church – the giving of the
Holy Spirit (Communion). In the Roman Catholic Church,
Confirmation is separate from the Baptism – given to those 7 or older -
and is performed by a Bishop. In the Orthodox Church a priest
performs the Sacrament of Baptism followed by the Sacrament of
Confirmation—the first Communion, in the same service.
- The Godparents in the Orthodox baptism are asked to
“spit on the devil” during the service.
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# About Boubouniera
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# What are bouboniera?
Bouboniera are favors given out in celebration at weddings, baptisms,
anniversaries, and any special celebratory event. The favors
traditionally contain jordan almonds. Boubonieres are given out as gifts
to each guest after the wedding or baptism at the reception. Styles can
range widely for these favors. Traditional favors are simple white, ivory, pink
or blue puffs of tulle tied with a ribbon. However, styles can range widely and
can extend to the elaborate, distinctive and fun.
What is the tradition of the favors? #
The gift of bomboniera is an Eastern Orthodox tradition over 3,000 years old.
Filled with koufeta – or jordan almonds – the favors are given as tokens of
good fortune and happiness. Bombonieres are symobolic of life with their
bittersweet taste. The sugar coating represents the hope that life will be
blessed with more sweetness than bitterness.
How many jordan almonds do boubouniera contain? #
Bombonieres are always filled with an odd and an indivisible number of almonds.
The traditional amount is 5 almonds –
(4) wealth and
(5) a long life.
Favors can be filled with more than
5 almonds, if desired – but the number has to be odd and indivisible (i.e., 7,
11 or 13 almonds). Favors cannot be
filled with 9 almonds, as 9 is a divisible number. In a wedding, the indivisible number symbolizes
the union and indivisibility of the newly married couple. In a baptism, the indivisibility of the union
of the baptized child with his or her Godparents.
When are favors given out and how many should I order? #
Traditionally one favor is given to each guest. For both baptisms and
weddings, the favors are usually given out at the reception (although sometimes
given out directly at the church after a baptism). For weddings, they may
be placed out at the table settings, distributed at the end of the night,
placed out along with table assignments, or given out by the bride and
groom. For baptisms, they may also be distributed to guests by the
Godparents or the parents of the baptized baby.
How long do Jordan Almonds stay
fresh? How soon before my event date can I order my favors? #
Jordan almonds stay fresh for up to months. The hard sugar coating provides
a protective wrap that keeps the jordan almond fresh for many months.
White jordan almonds keep fresh for 6-12 months. Colored almonds - which
may start to fade in color after a few months - stay fresh for only up to 4
months. Foil-covered gold or silver almonds stay fresh for up to 4
months. Any favor with jordan almonds should be stored in a cool, dry place
away from direct exposure to light. If
your timing allows, we recommend ordering about 2 months before your event
What's the correct spelling and how
do you pronounce bouboniera?
Traditionally pronounced: "Boo-bon-yera" or
"Bom-bon-yera". There is no one correct way to spell this word
- you will likely encounter a variety of spellings. Some of the most
- Boubouniera, bouboniera (singular or
- Boubounieres (plural)
- Bonboniere, bomboniere (singular)
- Bomboniera, Bombonieres
... the list goes on.
Do you offer other colors besides
white for the jordan almonds? #
- Yes - We also offer pink, light blue and ivory
jordan almonds. You can substitute these colors in your bouboniera if you
wish - at no extra charge. To do so, you may request this option in the
comment box at checkout. We do also offer silver colored jordan almonds
(these are silver foiled wrapped) at an additional charge. If you would
prefer silver colored almonds in your favors, the additional surcharge is $0.85
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