In Italy, the traditions in regard to a new baby vary from those in the United States. Many of the preparations Americans make for a child are not done in Italy. In addition, because a great portion of the residents of the country are Catholic, baptism is an important part of the traditions for all new babies. Many of these traditions date back many years.
Unlike in the United States, Italian families traditionally do not throw baby showers for their babies before they are born. It is felt that too much preparation in advance of the baby's birth is an invitation for something to go wrong. Italian parents do not purchase many items before the baby's birth, and they do not set up the baby's nursery before it is born. Everything is left until the last minute to ensure the healthy arrival of their child.
Because choosing a name is part of the preparation for a child, many Italian families wait to announce the name after the arrival of the baby. However, in Italy, naming traditions often dictate what the child's name will be, so it is easy to guess what the likely name will be. Firstborn boys traditionally receive the name of the paternal grandfather, while the second born receives the maternal grandfather's name. Firstborn girls are named after the paternal grandmother and the second born are named after the maternal grandmother. After the first two boys or girls, the remaining children also receive family names. This causes many people in the same family to have the same name.
As soon as possible after the birth of an Italian baby, the family schedules a baptism with the Catholic church. The baptism of the child is a big celebration that is often as important as an Italian wedding. The child is baptized in a special baptism mass, and the family throws a large party afterwards. In many cases, this serves the dual purpose of the baby's shower as well. Guests bring gifts and enjoy dancing and food. Most of these parties take place in the family home, but some families opt for a rented hall. Much of the food for a baptism party is homemade. It is considered bad luck to purchase a baptism cake, so you are likely to find other desserts instead, which can include a homemade cake.
While it is acceptable to give the baby any gift you see fit, a religious gift offers more meaning to the child's future. Many Italian children have the middle name of a patron saint. Choosing a gift that coordinates with the child's name, such as a saint's medallion, is an appropriate traditional gift. Italian men often wear jewelry, making it an ideal gift for either a boy or a girl. No matter what gift you choose, the family will be appreciative that you have thought of their child.
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