A year ago today, my family was in full celebration mode - the reason? - a Naming Day.
Although I consider myself to be quite a spiritual person, I have never had any religious leaning. It was not my intention to have any of my children christened because the ritual had very little relevance to me. I always said that when the children were old enough to make up their own minds and decided that it was something they wanted, I would support them and make that possible. I never actually expected that to happen, but it did.
We were living in a small Oxfordshire village. I was pregnant with my fourth child and Liberty was the grand age of 8. The primary school she attended was adjacent to and strongly affiliated with a lovely, rural church. From a very young age, Liberty exhibited a strong vocal talent. She had a beautiful, tuneful voice with a maturity far beyond her years and she loved to sing. When the church choir started recruiting for new members she joined with massive enthusiasm and proudly wore a woollen hat appliqued with the words 'I Love God' given to her by her auntie. To the ladies of the choir, most of them of retirement age, Liberty became something of a darling. For the first time in my life, I was regularly attending Sunday service and was even called upon to do some readings. Although my personal belief system remained unchanged, I did enjoy being at the heart of the life of the village and I will never forget the Xmas Carol Service when Liberty was selected to sing the traditional solo for the first verse of 'Once in Royal David's City' as the choir processed down the aisle.
When the new baby was born on New Year's Eve (there was some disappointment from the ladies of the choir that it wasn't a Xmas day birth) it was only natural that the church community would turn their thoughts to a Christening. As it transpired that not one of my little angels had felt the holy water on their brows, a quadruple event seemed inevitable. Liberty was thrilled at the prospect so we went for it.
It was a lovely pink and white themed occasion. The older girls wore co ordinated pink and white outfits with pink pearl necklaces and the baby wore a traditional christening gown borrowed from one of the godparents. One of the ladies of the church did an amazing job with the floral arrangements and my sister in law did the catering for the party afterwards which we held in the village hall. We had pink and white balloons and an absolutely fabulous cake which looked like an open book with all the girls' names written onto the pages.
Liberty's passion for the church choir finally deserted her when we moved to Shropshire and she discovered pop music!
Eleven years on from the quadruple Christening, almost to the day, I gave birth to baby number five with my new partner. I had no interest in the church side of things but I did want to celebrate my beautiful child and her place in our family. I found plenty of information and ideas regarding non-religious naming days on the internet and started making a plan. The event took on a new level of significance when my two younger daughters from my first marriage decided that they both wanted to adopt my new partner's surname. It was a slightly unusual request because at this point we were not married and I still used our original family name. They were undeterred by this fact and I think it showed a huge commitment to their new stepdad and the new life that we were all building together.
The girls' names were changed by deed poll with effect from the day of our Naming party, witnessing of the legal documents forming part of our ceremony. We performed a 'Rose Petal Blessing' during which our guests took it in turns to pluck a petal from a rose as they bestowed a wish. The petals were collected in a bowl and sprinkled over the heads of the wishes' recipients. We had music and readings and of course plenty of good food. Our colour theme this time was purple and both the older girls looked gorgeous in new purple party dresses. The little one wore pink as a tribute to the Christening from all those years ago. The final part of the ceremony was the 'Spirit Soaring Balloon Release' with each of our guests letting go of a helium balloon after the count of three to represent the bright little spirits of our children, climbing and soaring - so full of potential and on an unknown journey.
It is a year on now. I am married so I also share the new family name and we have another little addition in the form of my beautiful baby boy. We have a celebrated 'A Year of Being Virgos' with a small family get together. Perhaps what I ought to be thinking about now is a 'Naming day' for a new son.