How Orthodox Godparents Choose the Right Gifts for a Baptism

Kate Chered
3 min readJan 14, 2024

In Orthodox Christianity, the sacrament of baptism is a vital and sacred ceremony, marking the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey. Central to this ritual are the godparents, who play a crucial role in the Child's religious upbringing. They are expected to provide specific gifts, each carrying deep symbolic meaning.

What is the Most Important Gift from Godparents in Orthodox Baptism?

The primary gift from godparents at an Orthodox baptism is a baptismal cross. This cross need not be extravagant; its value lies not in material worth but in its spiritual symbolism. Traditionally, godmothers purchase crosses for girls and godfathers for boys, though some families choose to select a cross together. The cross might be gold, silver, or even simple wood, but its shape is essential. For infants, the cross should have rounded edges to prevent injury.

It's critical that the cross, if not bought from a church, is blessed.

For the baptism, the cross is often presented on a chain or a simple cord. Ensure the clasp is secure and small, with the cord length appropriate for the Child. During the ceremony, it should easily slip over the Child's head; adjustments can be made later.

Where Do Godparents Find the Appropriate Attire for the Baptized Child?

Godmothers are traditionally responsible for purchasing the baptismal cloth and clothing. This cloth called a 'kryzhma,' is wrapped around the child post-baptism. It should be pure white, with linen preferred in warmer months and terry cloth in colder seasons. Ideally adorned with Christian symbols and embroidery, it's a cherished keepsake.

The godmother also gifts a baptismal outfit: a long white shirt and cap, typically made of cotton and decorated with embroidery, ribbons, and beads. While a cross is a vital element of this attire, it can be on the chest or back. The outfit should be blessed in the church, with some godparents choosing to handmake or embellish it themselves.

In larger churches; you can find ready-made baptismal sets, including the shirt, kryzhma, sometimes a cap, and a simple cross, already blessed for convenience.

What Additional Responsibilities Do Godparents Have During Orthodox Baptism?

The godfather typically bears the cost of the entire baptism ceremony. This includes any church fees and the organization of the subsequent celebration. This financial contribution underscores the godfather's commitment to the Child's spiritual welfare.

Additionally, godparents might include extra gifts like soft booties and baby leggings to complete the baptismal outfit. While these are not traditional, they add a practical and thoughtful touch to the ceremonial attire.

How do Godparents' Roles and Gifts Differ in Other Countries?

In various Christian traditions around the world, the role of godparents and their gifts at baptism can vary significantly. For instance, in some Western traditions, godparents might give a Bible or a religious book, symbolizing their duty to guide the Child's spiritual education. In some cultures, godparents are expected to contribute financially to the Child's education or provide a savings bond as a long-term gift.

What is the Significance of These Varied Traditions in Different Cultures?

These diverse traditions underline the universal importance of godparents in a child's religious and moral upbringing. Whether through symbolic gifts like the cross in Orthodox Christianity or practical contributions like educational funds, the underlying principle remains constant: godparents are entrusted with guiding the Child's spiritual journey.

In countries where religious diversity is prevalent, it's not uncommon to see an amalgamation of these traditions, where godparents might give a combination of religious, educational, and practical gifts, adapting to the specific needs and customs of the family.

To What Extent Do Modern Trends Influence Traditional Baptism Gifts?

In the modern world, where lifestyles and beliefs are constantly evolving, traditional practices like baptismal gifts from godparents are also experiencing changes. While the core values and symbols remain, there's a growing trend towards more practical or personalized gifts.

How are Traditional Gifts Being Adapted in