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Pregnant WomanChilean Baby Traditions

By Caitlin Ritchie

The arrival of a new child is a big deal for any Chilean family. The expecting couple has many decisions to make and preparations to take care of in the months leading up to and following their baby’s birth.

However, planning a baby shower isn’t one of them. This predominantly American tradition, although celebrated by some expectant Chilean mothers, still hasn’t caught on and become mainstream. Instead, the baby’s baptism is one of the first big ceremonies surrounding the arrival of a new Chilean child.

In Chile, one of the most important decisions that expecting couples face isn’t what to name the child, but rather deciding who the godparents are going to be. It’s a long and complicated process that starts the moment a couple receives the happy news and sometimes isn’t finalized until the day of the child’s baptism.

Any child that is baptized must have at least one godparent, though it is tradition to choose two: one man and one woman. However, some people have more than two godparents.

Usually parents decide to make close family members the godparents, but there is no rule against allowing friends to take on the role. It is a great honor to be chosen as a godparent; however, the person has to meet some strict requisites and is expected to be active in the child’s life.

Aside from what the parents might look for in a potential godparent, the Catholic Church has some of its own ideas about who is or isn’t worthy. According to the Church, godparents must be at least 16 years of age and practicing Catholics who lead a life that follows the church’s teachings. They must have already received some of the sacraments, including the First Communion and be confirmed.

If a married couple is chosen to be godparents, their wedding must have taken place in the church. The church tends to favor selecting people who live in the same house as the child, such as brothers, sisters or other family members or friends because it is believed these people can give the child more attention and guidance.

The church is very clear about who does not qualify to be a godparent. First of all, the parents cannot choose themselves to be the godparents. Surely they already have enough to worry about. People who have committed cardinal sins, those who lack faith, belong to a sect, are divorced and remarried and people of other faiths must also be omitted from the list of candidates.

In the past, the main responsibility of Chilean godparents was to care for the child if his or her parents were to die. Today, while this tradition still remains, a godparent’s role is even more demanding. Godparents are responsible for presenting the child at his or her baptism, and helping him or her to lead a good Christian (or more specifically Catholic) life. For this, godparents should set a good example for their godchildren by attending mass regularly and participating in the sacraments.

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