It’s a much more beautiful welcome to the child

Eva RidajováNové StrasecíAugust 2000
I have a non-Romany friend, Jitka. A short time ago she came to see me and asked for a piece of advice. She had given birth to a baby boy. They called him David, and he was about three months old.
"I’ve come to ask you how I should go about christening our little one,” she began.
“Jitka, you had better see the parish priest about that. He’ll tell you all you need,” I replied.
“But I thought you knew about these things.”
I explained that I did indeed have some experience in the matter but that such things were approached a bit differently by Roma.
She immediately wanted to hear all about it.
So I remembered the christening ceremony of my eldest daughter Helena, and told Jitka about it. The great event took place in September 1984 when little Helena was eight weeks old. My husband and I paid a visit to Mr. Peterka, the local priest. He was very helpful and did not delay in setting a date for the ceremony.
But before the christening could take place we had to see him several times more. During these visits to the parish house we were told what we would have to do.
D-Day finally came.
All our relatives had arrived the day before, and our two-room flat was crowded with more than thirty grown people. We had to rearrange the flat to get everybody in.
Luckily we got on very well with the neighbors in our block of flats, and they lent us some extra tables and chairs. They even agreed to roast some chickens for us in their flats: our one and only oven certainly was not up to the task.
From morning on everyone was in a good mood. There was plenty to eat and drink, and we were enjoying ourselves.
“We had to toast little Helena so that she would be healthy and would grow properly,” I explained to Jitka.
The atmosphere was just about right for the occasion. Happily we lived on the ground floor, and could use the yard as our dancing floor.
From time to time I looked out of the window and saw all the people in the block of flats at their windows watching everything like a movie in the cinema.
My neighbours had been forewarned, and had no objection to what was going on. They considered it quite an exciting experience.
And the best was still to come on Sunday morning.
On Sunday I dressed my little Helena, and swaddled her in the baby wrap.
Then my mother wrapped her in a beautiful pink stole with ribbons.
Then Helena was taken over by her godmother. Before leaving the house she said aloud: “We are taking thee away a pagan and shall bring you back a Christian.”
Then we set off on the eight-hundred metre walk to the local church.
Some of the people who watched us told me later on that they had never seen anything like it. The baby was escorted by a whole Romany procession. Several curious lookers-on even joined the procession and accompanied us to the church.
After the church ceremony we returned to our flat, my daughter still in the arms of her godmother. Upon entering the flat her godmother intoned: “Took thee away a pagan and brought you back a Christian.”
The aunts who had stayed at homethanked her and wished good luck to little Helena.
Although Helena was quite a weepy baby, she continued to be very good for the rest of the day and slept through the night. The ceremony was such an event that it is still remembered not only by our relatives but also by some other townspeople.
“You see, Jitka, I’m not exactly a devout Christian, but I do consider the christening ceremony sacred. I certainly think that it’s a much better and more beautiful welcome to the child than the municipal ceremony at the town hall. We went there as well, but I did’nt like it all that much.”
Then we spent some more time talking about her preparations for the christening ceremony. I told her to go and see her mother, the best person to consult about what should be done.

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