A humanist naming ceremony is the ideal alternative to a Christening for families who wish to mark the occasion in a way that isn’t religious. A naming ceremony focuses on the child and the friends and family that surround them. Each ceremony is individual and unique, and may include symbolic acts and poetry readings.
Humanist naming celebrant Stephanie Forster explains how she conducted a safe, socially distanced, outdoor naming ceremony for Ranjana and Adam’s daughter Raaya, which was symbolic, meaningful, and unique to them.
At the beginning of February 2020, I met with Ranjana and Adam to talk through ideas for a humanist naming ceremony for their daughter Raaya (who was just three weeks old at the time).
They had booked a venue for the beginning of July when Raaya would be six months old. And then COVID-19 struck, and we quickly went into a national lockdown.
As a result of the lockdown restrictions, we agreed that the original plans for Raaya’s naming ceremony couldn’t go ahead, but Ranjana and Adam were keen to mark their daughter’s special arrival in the world and came up with the idea of a socially distanced outdoor ceremony.
So, with a smaller group of family and friends than originally planned, we held an intimate and very personal ceremony for Raaya in their local woods, where she had experienced her first glimpses of the outside world and the wonders of nature.
For the ceremony, Ranjana and Adam selected a quiet clearing in the woods and decorated the trees with lights, purple ribbons, and bunting.
To keep guests safe and socially distanced from one another, family and friends were asked to bring their own picnic rugs, lunch, and drinks (to toast the baby). Beautiful, individually wrapped cupcakes were shared out after the ceremony.
Humanist naming ceremonies often include symbolic gestures and, as Ranjana and Adam were keen to acknowledge Raaya’s Indian and British heritage in the naming ceremony, we included two Bengali symbolic gestures. The first was the six-month ‘weaning ceremony’ or ‘rice-eating ceremony’, where Raaya was offered sweetened milk with boiled rice by her older brother (to mark her transition from milk to solid food).
The second involved Raaya being offered a tray of objects by her cousins. The item she selected is said to symbolise her future prospects. She chose from a pen (for wisdom), a book (for vast knowledge), and money (for financial gain). Raaya’s mum was particularly pleased that she chose the book!
Most humanist naming ceremonies include a reading or poem, and this one included ‘On Children’ by Kahlil Gibran, which is a wonderful reminder that children are individuals in their own right
Ranjana and Adam had each written their own commitments to Raaya, which they shared with everyone.
There were greetings from Raaya’s grandparents in India, which I shared, and good wishes from her other grandparents who were there in person.
When it came to the official naming for Raaya, Ranjana explained the meaning of her names and why they chose them. Then, Ranjana and Adam formally named their daughter.
The ceremony signified a new stage in Raaya’s life as a ‘lockdown baby’, as it marked a point in time when we started coming out of our family units to connect with others again.
This was my second naming ceremony in an outdoor setting, and they really create a special atmosphere. You can easily festoon a garden or woodland with simple, homemade decorations to personalise the space to create a memorable backdrop to the day.
For this ceremony, the chosen woodland was ideal as it was particularly meaningful to Ranjana, Adam, and their family. It was certainly a privilege to create a ceremony for this lovely family and to welcome Raaya to the world!
The photos of Raaya’s ceremony were taken by Andy Gulland from Yellow Door Photos.
Thank you to Ranjana and Adam for sharing Raaya’s special day with us!
Stephanie Forster of Silver Bee Ceremonies conducts humanist naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals across Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, London, and further afield (lockdown restrictions permitting).
If you’d like to discuss a humanist naming ceremony, you can find your local celebrant today. Your local celebrant will be happy to talk with you about your ideas and the possibilities for the celebration you are planning.
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