If you’re planning to have your baby baptized or christened at church, you may wonder about the ceremony, including what babies wear. If you checked baby stores, you probably noticed that many christening outfits have bonnets or caps. That can seem strange if you know that the minister will pour or sprinkle water on the baby’s head. Surely the head covering has a purpose!
Many christening gowns and suits come packaged with a bonnet or cap. The head covering keeps the baby’s head warm during transport from the car to the church. In cold churches, the head covering continues to keep your baby’s head warm. Remove the bonnet when the minister calls you forward and leave it in the seat for use when you return. In churches where oil is placed on the baby’s head as part of the sacrament, the bonnet or an lined cap can help absorb the oil to keep it from staining your clothing.
There is no “right way” to baptize a baby. Some churches pour water on the baby’s head while the baby is held above the baptismal font. Some churches sprinkle a little water over the baby’s head. Some churches, such as the Russian Orthodox and some Catholic and Episcopal churches, immerse the baby’s body, but not its head in warm water in the baptismal font. In immersion baptism, the unclothed baby is dipped into the font up to the shoulders and then removed and covered in a towel. In the Russian Orthodox tradition, the minister anoints the baby’s head with oil following the immersion, and a bonnet would be in the way.
A white christening gown is traditional for both male and female babies. The gown is often quite long, as children as old as 2 years of age may be baptized at an infant baptism. White socks, booties and a bonnet complete the outfit so the little one is completely dressed in white. In some churches, the baby does not wear the white garments until after the baptism, symbolizing the washing away of sin into a sinless state. In other churches, the baby wears the white outfit throughout the sacrament. Some parents prefer to dress the baby in white just before the sacrament and remove it immediately after to prevent the garment from getting dirty, marring the sinless representation.
Some parents no longer use traditional christening garments and may opt for colors other than white. Check with your church or parish to see what the requirements are. If the weather is warm, you could find that a bonnet or cap is too warm for your child. Some babies don’t like head coverings and will fuss if you insist they wear one. The bonnet is mostly symbolic, so you can leave the bonnet at home if it creates a problem for you or your child.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images