What kind of gifts can atheist godparents give at a christening?

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Photo by CreAtions2007, used under Creative Commons license.
My husband’s sister has just had her first baby, and they’ve asked him to be godfather; they understand that he’s a staunch atheist and will not be part of his niece’s religious education. All of the complexities there aside for a moment, here’s my question: what do my husband and I give her as a christening gift?

As I understand it, the typical gift would be for the godparent to present the child with her first Bible at the baptism, but we won’t be attending (we live on separate continents) and it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to gift her with a Bible anyway, since it’s not something he believes in.

Are there any other traditional gifts that you can suggest? We want it to be special, a true token of his love for her and his agreement to be part of her team, so to speak, without being overtly religious. It’s a fine line, right? — Krissa

Comments on What kind of gifts can atheist godparents give at a christening?

  1. As a faith-follower myself, I can understand that this would be a sticky one. However, think of a traditional baby gift (I am assuming the christening is a baby one? Sometimes it’s not). A blanket with her name, a pewter baby cup with the date of the christening, perhaps a cute outfit. If you want to go for something more alternative, how about starting a college fund, to contribute to her education? You could send a tree (providing they have room to plant it) or other natural reminder of her day. Either way, I applaud his willingness to be a not-so-God-parent!

    • Ooh, I really like the tree one. I know there used to be a Jewish tradition (which I think is biblical) to plant a certain tree for girls and a certain tree for boys when they’re born. Maybe look into that?

  2. I would think any type of “heirloom” baby gift would be appropriate — a special fancy frame for a picture of her on her christening day, a silver spoon, a gift certificate to have her baby shoes bronzed (if they still do that?), anything along those lines.

    Or perhaps something commemorative with her name and birthdate, since in a sense, a child is given her name on her christening day – maybe even a piece of jewelry for when she gets older (you could do a pendant or charm type thing, that could be worn on different size chains as she gets older?). I think, if you would like to stay away from anything overtly religious, maybe focusing on her name would be a good way to give a gift in the spirit of the event without making too much of a statement one way or the other about religion.

  3. How about something to hopefully inspire the child’s future passions? Personalized books that meant a lot to you and helped you mature as a person, not only as a child but as a teen, young adult etc. to help them through those periods of their lives. A small ukulele or easel to introduce them to the arts. An awesome science kit with a little telescope to get them to explore the world around them.

    As long as it’s something that meant a lot to you and your husband as you were growing up, I can’t imagine it would go unappreciated.

  4. I am religious but totally get what you mean.
    How about:
    -something with her birth stone???
    -gift card to do painting pottery and do a plate with her feet in the middle with the dates (i always think this is well cute.)
    -charm braclet. add it to it every birthday/special occassion like graduations.
    -something to do with star sign. (pictures of symbol. I have a scetch of capricorn sign)

    • I still have the birthstone ring my Godmother gave me. I where it on my birthday and tell everyone it was my first piece of jewelry. It’s actually my first, you know, possession and it is very special to me.

  5. I would put a small amount of money ($30? $50 if you can afford it?) in a savings account (high interest, if those CDs even exist anymore) for college. You can add to it over the years for birthdays, if you like, but either way it’s a beautiful way to illustrate that you get what being a “godparent” is. It’s about providing stability to a child, no matter what happens to their parents, and seeing them through to adulthood. Also relatively easy to do abroad.

  6. What about a locket? Also, if you’re looking for a cute name, my daughter has a fairy godmother and a fairly godfather. They’re the non religious members of her team.

  7. There’s a really good book called If Darwin Prayed, it’s soul food for Christians who believe in science too. It’s got lots of amazing prayers and ideas that the parents can share with nugget as zie gets older.

  8. A neighbor got me a nifty gift for my christening…I think it was a baby bonnet that turned into a handkerchief that could be used at my wedding. I might not be remembering it correctly, partially because I didn’t wind up using it at my wedding, but it’s actually still at my parent’s house in my old bedroom.

    Not sure if that’s helpful at all!

    • My mother has one of those. It’s supposed to be the something old when you get married, and if the child is a boy, he gifts it to his bride. It’s pretty simple; you could probably find a pattern for it online.

  9. I was given a charm bracelet at my Christening by a friend of my parents and they then gave me charms every birthday, when I travel or have a special occasion I buy new charms and I love my bracelet!
    I even wore it on my wedding day 🙂

  10. My husband and I were in a similar boat. He’s a godfather, but not Christian. We ended up going with an engraved silver baby bracelet – something similar to what my godfather got me years ago when I was born, actually. She was able to wear it for her Christening and will be able to keep it and pass it on to her children if she wants/chooses to have them, but there aren’t any real religious connotations.

  11. Well, I would examine what relationship/role the godfather is going to have in the child’s life and then get a gift based on that. So, if the parents think that he is going to be a part of spending time with him/her in relation to education or travel or etc., then you could find something that shows the unique and specialness of the relationship, and not necessarily something that is just a generic baby gift?

  12. Along the lines of a locket…how about a small brass compass with their birthday and To/From engraved inside the lid? It can symbolize that as a compass helps guide those who are lost, you will help guide them as they grow up. Plus, compasses are cool to learn about and it may spark an interest in science through discussions of magnets, etc.

    • My husband gave me a dollar store compass the first holiday season we were together so that I could ‘always find my way back to him’. It was one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received even if it was really cheap!

  13. In Europe, it is traditional to give a (usually baby-size) gold or platinum bracelet which has a little name plate with the baby’s name engraved. After all, the christening is about the name, and the bracelet is not a religious gift at all.

    • My aunt gave me a baby bracelet with a nameplate on it – on the opposite side of my name, a short bible verse was engraved. Instead of a bible verse, you could engrave a short quote that means something to you or is indicative of your husband’s relationship with the child.

      The way my bracelet was constructed, I was able to turn it into a charm bracelet later (and size it up as I grew). I’d probably still wear it today, except I’m not particularly religious, and feel strange wearing the bible verse.

  14. friends of mine did a treasure chest: a beautiful actual chest filled with treasures that the child will enjoy while growing – and the guests at the christening could participate and add small treasures. it was a big hit!

  15. I would definitely give the child a small bond for future education and then a trinket as a personal thing.

    In terms of personal things: an old fashioned large chain bracelet to be used as a charm bracelet with her first charm would be great for a girl. Then you and other loving and important people in her life can contribute over the years and she’ll cherish it as an adult.

  16. How about your favorite children’s books? I give my niece copies of my favorite (age appropriate) books for every birthday and she loves it. I actually didn’t give her one on the last birthday (it hadn’t arrived from Amazon yet!) and though she loved the toys, she wanted to know where her book was!

    For the Christening you could give a good quality treasury of read aloud stories for the parents, and as the child is older give other books. My cousin gave me books by the dozen as I grew up with notes in them about why he loved them himself when he was the same age. It meant a lot (and even though I don’t talk to him anymore for personal reasons, I still have them) and really fostered a love of knowledge and learning.

  17. Depending on the budget, a gift of some size for the future (Education, travel, etc when they are older), and like others, a small piece of jewelry. When I was small, my grandmother gave me (and my other girl cousins) a pearl pendant on a small gold chain. It was the perfect jewelry for a small girl to wear to fancy occasions, and as a teenager, I wore it until the luster wore off, and well beyond. I still keep it in a jewelry box. Something like that would be a great gift.

  18. We had a similar issue recently with a nephew’s first communion. We decided to go with the theme of the rite – becoming a full member of the world – and got him an Atlas and a Globe.

  19. I read somewhere that the traditional gift is silver for an christening. Both my niece and nephew (born two years apart) were Christened at the same time and as the godparent I felt they needed something similar (and giving jewellery is not my thing for kids that young). We ended up finding some nice silver money boxes

  20. My husband and I are not Catholic, but we both have unusally high respect for religion and religious observances in others (it’s the zealots that we dislike). We did get a children’s Bible for our nephew at his Christianing. It was our subtle way of showing his parents that we appriciate her always writing “Happy Yule” and gifting us pagan-based gifts for the winter holidays though she is Catholic. However, along with that we did get a silver personalized frame for the first year-it has a large oval in the middle for his birth picture, the around the edge smaller ovals for a picture for each month. The parents LOVED it.

  21. I’m an agnostic, and I gave my goddaughter a set of silver children’s cutlery. Five years later, it’s still in daily use, and it’s something she could pass on to her own (at this point very hypothetical ;-p) children.

  22. I also just became a pagan godmother to my nephew born into a Catholic family and looking for some ideas. Any ideas for little boys? Not necessarily gender-specific, just not jewelry. I’m not comfortable giving a bible, but his mother’s name is Bridget so I was thinking of a St. Brigid’s cross….but still looking for more thoughts.

  23. Hi, Just went to my nephews christening. I got him a harmonica and had it engraved with his first name, date of birth and Love from us. He obviously wasn’t very excited about it yet but everyone thought it was the best idea and my sister and husband were very genuinely appreciative. Everyone wanted to play it, that nice new harmonica, but obviously was not allowed too. Not a traditional gift but something very special.

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