Emily Post (1873-1960) was the doyen of etiquette advisers and in 1922 wrote advice on etiquette for Christenings or Baptisms. Some of the advice holds true today, but changes in methods of communications and modern lifestyles, make some of the advice seem terribly dated. I wonder what Mrs. Post would have thought about how we conduct ourselves today?
Here is some of the advice she gave for Christenings over 80-years ago:
“Invitations to a christening are never formal, because none but the family and a very few intimate friends are supposed to be asked. In this day invitations are nearly all sent over the telephone, except to those who are at a distance, or else friends are asked verbally when seen; but it is both correct and polite to write notes.”
This is the form of the invitation:
“Dear Mrs. (name):
The baby is to be christened here at home, next Sunday at half past four, and we hope you and Mr. (name) and the children if they care to – will come.
All very stiff and formal, but it appears that telephone invitations would be communicated by a servant:
“Mr. and Mrs. Gilding, Jr. would like Mr. and Mrs. Norman to come to the baby’s christening on Sunday at half past four, at their house.”
Whereas, today it would all be first name terms, attendance at a church and communicated by email, mobile/cell phone.
On the subject of Godparents, Emily Post writes:
“Before setting the date for the christening, the godmothers (two for a girl and one for a boy) and the godfathers (two for a boy and one for a girl) have, of course, already been chosen.”
“Since godparents are always most intimate friends, it is natural to ask them when they come to see the mother and the baby (which they probably do often) or to write them if at a distance.”
But I hadn’t realised that the invitation should, supposedly, be sent from the newborn child:
“I arrived last night and my mother and father were very glad to see me, and I am now eagerly waiting to see you.
Your loving godson,
There is much else besides. Advice on what to wear, the arrangement of rooms at home and when to hand baby back to the nurse(!), before going on to the all important advice on Christening gifts and presents:
“Godparents must, of course, give the baby a present, if not before, at least at the Christening. The standard “gift” is a silver mug, a porringer, or a knife, fork and spoon, marked usually with the baby’s name and that of the giver.” For example:
Adam Lee. From his godfather. Stewart Hersey
Of course there is nothing to stop other guests, especially grandparents, at the Christening giving silver christening gifts.