Difference between Baptism and Christening

Updated on March 27, 2017

Many people use the terms baptism and christening interchangeably. And it is no wonder, since they refer to basically the same type of ceremony or sacrament. But is that really so? Do you know the difference between baptism and christening? If the answer is not really, keep reading to find out.

Definitions

Baptism

Baptism is a Christian religious sacrament. It consists of the follower officially embracing the faith and it must be performed by a member of the clergy. Baptism can be done by immersing, pouring or sprinkling water on the person getting baptized. The method used depends on the way in which the ritual is performed by the Christian denomination into whose Church a person is about to enter.

The act of baptizing in itself consists of the member of the clergy stating that the baptism is done in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. It is followed by immersion or the sprinkling of water as a symbol of the sins of the believer being washed away by his faith.

This is the only Christian sacrament that can be done by anyone in case of an emergency. The person executing the sacrament does not even have to be Christian. The only elements that must be respected are the canonical chant (“I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) and the use of water.

Taken out of the religious context, a baptism represents a form of initiation.

Christening

Christening is the ceremony during which a child is given a name before Christ and is baptized. The term has also been used to refer to official naming ceremonies. Ship christenings are good examples of naming ceremonies.

It is generally agreed upon that this ceremony is mainly performed on young children, even though some parents choose to put off the baptizing part and the integration within the Church until the child is old enough to make such a decision for themselves.

Baptism vs Christening

So what is the difference between baptism and christening?

Once you understand which is which, things get simple. The baptism is the religious sacrament and the christening is the ceremony during which the sacrament is performed. Also, a christening can take consist of only name giving without the child being introduced as a member of the Church, as some denominations prefer their followers to make their own choices in this respect.

Also, christening ceremonies are mainly held for babies, whereas a baptism can be performed any time during a person’s life.

Outside of the religious context, “baptism” can mean “initiation”, whereas “christening” can also mean “naming”.

Comparison Chart

BaptismChristening
Is a religious sacramentIs a religious ceremony
Implies a sacrament for the initiating of a person in a new riteImplies a ceremony in which a child is given a name; a baptism may occur during this ceremony
Can be performed for adults and infantsIs usually performed for infants
Also means “initiation”Also means “naming”