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Question 399

Hi I would like to know a little more about been christened in the Greek church and the meaning of some of the rituals . Why is your mum not allowed to kiss you for free days ? Why do you have to wash the babies clothes after 3 days ? Why do they cut the babies hair and when you are christened after a saint does could I know the significance of all these things . Than you very much  



Answer to Question 399


Some of your questions have to do with tradition and are not necessarily true. The mother not kissing the child for three days is one of these traditions. The mother can kiss the baby, but because the child has been anointed with oil and Holy Myron which will remain on the childís body until he is washed on the third day, it was believed that if the mother kissed the child she would be touching the Myra with her lips so a tradition arose that the mother was not to kiss the child until it was washed on the third day. 


The oils and Holy Myra are absorbed by the childís body and clothing, but tradition has it that the child is not bathed for three days (3 is always symbolic of the Holy Trinity). In older times when adult baptisms were the norm, people didnít wash for eight days and then returned to the church to be washed there and special prayers were read on that day. The prayers are still read today but they are read in anticipation on the day of the baptism so that the baby is not brought back to the church again. 


On the third day the Godparent comes to the childís home for the washing, as it is considered his responsibility to wash the child. A baby bath is set up and the child is washed and dressed. Then all the clothes the child wore for those three days and his bed sheets are washed in the same water and the water is then poured into a container. The clothes are then rinsed in clean water which again is poured into the container. The water is then carried to the Church and poured into the Churchís drainage or is poured somewhere where people do not tread, like in flower pots, a corner of the garden or even on walls. 


This is done because the oils, the water and the Holy Myron used for his baptism had been sanctified through the grace of the Holy Spirit; they were used for his sanctification and salvation and therefore should be treated with the reverence due to them. It would be an impious act to let the waters of the bath to flow into the common sewage. 


During the baptism the priest will cut some of the babyís hair in the form of a cross. Why is this done? Having been baptized, you are now a new man reborn by water and the Spirit. God has granted you salvation and not only this; He has sealed you with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is only right that we offer something back to God for His loving-kindness; therefore the hair that is cut is a symbolic offering similar to the firstfruits one would offer God as a thanksgiving for the good harvest. But here the hair represents not fruit, but an offering of ourselves, the beginning of a new start and a sacrifice of our whole life to Christ our God.


In recent years there has been a trend by parents to find or make up the most original name for their child just to be different. As Christians it is better for our children to be named after a saint so that they grow up with the blessing of that saint and have him or her as their own personal patron saint. In Orthodoxy it is also important for a child to be named after a saint so that he can celebrate a Nameday! Orthodox children see their Nameday as their own special day similar to their birthday. It is a day for presents and special attention from their Parents, Godparents, Grandparent, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, teachers and classmates. In countries like England the celebration of namedays has almost been lost, but in Orthodox countries like Cyprus namesday are very important and celebrated more than birthdays. I would say to parents, forget about being original, don't deprive your children of a second birthday, give them a name of a Saint: Give them a Nameday.