The date of our baptism is a special feast day to remember
We celebrate our birthdays every year, often in a big way, but how many of us celebrate the date of our baptism?
Our baptismal day is also a day of “birth” — birth into a new life with Christ and his church.
It’s fitting that the feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls in January, when we’re making New Year’s resolutions for new habits and goals. The feast is a call to remember how we must view our actions in light of our baptism.
Four years ago, Pope Francis used his January 8 general audience to encourage the faithful to remember and celebrate their baptismal anniversaries.
“To know the date of our baptism is to know a blessed day,” he said. “The danger of not knowing it is losing awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past — and not by our own will but by that of our parents — and, thus, has no impact on the present. Indeed, we must reawaken the memory of our baptism. We are called to live our baptism every day, as the current reality of our lives.
Photo: Janis Olson
My husband and I first started marking the baptismal anniversaries of our children about 20 years ago. I had read Around the Year with the Trapp Family, by Maria Augusta Trapp (known as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music) and we were inspired to begin a new tradition.
We started simply, by placing the baptismal candle in the middle of the kitchen table and lighting it during the time we set aside to celebrate. We said a prayer and sang the baptismal acclamation that was used during the child’s baptism.
Over the years, we have added to the ritual. We set out cards and gifts received on the day of baptism, photographs from the day, the baptismal garment and certificate, white candles and scallop shells (symbols of baptism). We center our celebration on the family dinner, when everyone is home, and make it a little fancy with special foods eaten on china dishes, and a dessert requested by the family member whose baptismal anniversary is being celebrated. Then all present say a special blessing over the honoree and make the sign of the cross on his or her forehead with holy water.
Some years, our children’s godparents have been able to attend the anniversary celebrations, and that has been very special. Trapp wrote that if godparents can’t attend the event, they can be asked to write a letter to their godchild instead. For her great-grandparents’ generation, she noted, those letters from godparents were “reverently kept through life” and were vital to their spiritual relationship.
Photo: Janis Olson
Celebrating our family’s baptismal anniversaries has enriched not only our family life, but our faith life as well. Many times a year we are reminded: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
On this year’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 8), think about our new life in Christ and how we are called to remember that every day. At my house on that feast day, we also celebrate a baptismal anniversary — our 10-year-old son was lucky enough to be baptized on this special feast.
Vitae spiritualis ianua! (The gateway to life in the Spirit!)
Gather items such as:
Baptismal candle, certificate and garment
Gifts and cards received on the baptismal day
Photographs from the day
White decorate cloth
Arrange the items into a centerpiece on the dining table (photographs and the baptismal garment might be hung on a nearby wall). Or create a centerpiece using the candles, cloth and shells, and arrange the other baptismal items on a side table.
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