Family Baptismal Gown – Family Ritual

The family of the informant has used the same baptismal gown for many generations. At least one child in each section of the family wore the gown while being baptized, and many times in the same church. This gown was said to be made from fine linen cloth brought straight from Ireland. The informant wore the gown and their sibling also did, but their cousin on their mother’s side (the side of gown tradition) wore their mother’s. However, the informant said there is now much question in the family as over one hundred people have worn it, but it is currently missing. The informant said that this gown held importance to much of the family to carry on wearing the traditional gown, but now there is discussion of making another one since the first is gone.

Context – Many families will often have a garment or cultural object that holds meaning among the family or a common group. For the informant in this story, the baptism gown is that object and became a symbol of family heritage and carried meaning from generation to generation. This crosses over into the realm of folklore due to the mass of the shared ritual and the commonality that each family may have similar garments or rituals.

Analysis – For those who have a cultural object carrying meaning among a family, there is much symbolic meaning and weight carried by the object. The object no longer is seen as a simple piece of cloth to be worn, but rather a symbol of generational wealth, prosperity, and heritage. In families such as the informant, there is a question created as to where clothing/objects begin carrying weight, and where does the meaning begin collecting deep folklore and meaning among a shared group — it is unclear and decided family by family case whether the object can be replaced or changed at all (such as in this informants family).