A godparent, in many denominations of
Christianity, is someone who sponsors a child's baptism. Judaismhas this equivalent in the circumcision ceremony. A male godparent is a godfather and a female godparent is a godmother. The child is a godchild (godson, goddaughter).
Traditionally, the godparents were counted informally responsible for ensuring that the child's religious education was carried out and for caring for the child should he/she be orphaned. Today the word "godparent" may not have explicitly religious overtones. The modern view of a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child's upbringing and personal development. However, godparent is not a legal position, and should the parents seriously intend the godparents to act as
foster parents in case of their death, this must be legally specified through the usual means (such as a will).
A godparent may, or may not, be related to the child. A child may have one, two or several godparents.
Prospective godparents must be at least baptized before they can take on this responsibility. Traditionally the child is given three godparents, two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. i.e., a baby boy has two godfathers and one godmother and a baby girl has one godfather and two godmothers. [http://www.cofe.anglican.org/lifeevents/baptismconfirm/baptism1.html#godparents The Baptism Service (Church of England website) accessed 17 June 2007] ]
Roman Catholic Church
In the Roman Catholic church, only church members who have undergone Confirmation are accepted as godparents. Someone who belongs to another Christian denomination cannot become a godparent but is known as a
Christian Witness, with most of the regular role of a godparent. Non-Christians are not at all eligible to any religious role formalized by the Church. This is based on the view that the godparent-godchild relationship is not something which is just between the persons and God, but a whole-Church event wherein the Holy Spirit dwells.
A Godparent prays for the newly baptized, looks after them spiritually and gives them guidance. The Catholic Church sees Baptism as an entry into the Kingdom of God, and entry into the Church.
There are two roles in the
Jewish circumcisionceremony which are sometimes translated as "godparent". The " sandek" holds the baby boy while he is circumcised. Among Orthodox Ashkenazi the "kvater" (or "kvaterin" if female) is the person who takes the child from his mother and carries him into the room in which the circumcision is performed. "kvater" is etymologically derived from the German Gott-Vater ("godfather").
Yoruba religion Santeria, godparents must have completed their santo or their Ifá. A person gets their Madrina and Yubona (co godmother) or their Padrino and Yubon (co godfather) or some santeros aside from their co-godparents may have an oluo (babalao, initiate of ifa) who consults them with an ekuele (divinating chain).
In some cultures, the word for "godparent of one's child" is used for any, or certain, very close friends. This is the meaning of the Portuguese and Spanish "
compadre" (literally, "co-father") and "comadre" ("co-mother"), the French "commère" and "compère", and the archaic meaning of the English word " gossip" (from "godsib," "god-sibling"). Also, the Spanish words for the godparent roles are used for members of the wedding party— "padrino" meaning "godfather" or " best man" and "madrina" meaning "godmother" or " matron of honor" — reflecting that the friends serving this role in a couple's wedding traditionally were chosen as godparents to their children.fact|date=January 2008
Godparent is also used, in absence of a "religious reason", as a stated person (be it family member or close friend) who is responsible for the child in the event of both parents' demise or incapacitation.
Folktales often feature a
fairy godmother, a fairy who acts as a mentor to a main character.
Belgium, the Monarch is traditionally the godparent to the 7th consecutive child of one gender (i.e., the seventh son or seventh daughter) born in a family. [http://www.monarchie.be/en/monarchy/population/index.html Belgian Royal Family - 28 August 2007] ]
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