The sacrament of baptism is one of the most important moments in the life of the Greek Orthodox faithful. It is so important that the baby does not technically have a name until this religious ceremony is performed. Many traditions are followed, including the baby being blessed with myrrh (olive oil blessed by the family's patriarch). There are also traditional baptism gifts that are given by the family and guests.
In addition to providing the olive oil for the ceremony, the child's godparents are responsible for passing out martyrika to the guests. Martyrika means "witness" in Greek, and at a baptism, it is also the name given to pins or ribbons that are worn by all who witness the ceremony. These pins are traditionally made of ivory, white, pink or blue, and they are adorned with a religious symbol like a cross.
Lathopana, also known as ladopana, are gift sets that include many of the items needed for the baptism. The lathopana may include towels, an oil sheet to wrap the baby in, an oil bottle to hold the holy myrrh or soap to help wash the baby after the ceremony. Since it is so important to the ceremony, the lathopana is one gift option for someone who is close to the family like a grandparent, aunt or uncle.
Bomboniera is the name given to the small gifts that guests receive at the reception. They are forms of party favors that are offered as tokens of good fortune. Offering bomboniera to guests is a tradition that dates back over 3,000 years. These thank-you gifts can be any small token of appreciation, but they are usually small sachets filled with an odd number of Jordan almonds. The number of Jordan almonds included in the sachet is normally a number that cannot be divided, like three. This symbolizes the child's union with his or her godparents. The Jordan almonds are symbolic of life. The sugar coating represents the hope for sweet things in the child's life to overcome the bitterness that is represented by the almond.
After the child is dressed and ready to be baptized, the godparents give the gift of a gold cross to the child. The chain with a cross pendant is placed around the baby's neck just before he or she is baptized with olive oil.
Baptismal candles are another gift option that someone who is close to the family may want to purchase. These are candles that are lit during the ceremony, after the baby is dressed in new clothing.
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