Friday, 5 November 2010

Parrainage civil

Mairie d'AvignonElisabeth, also known as Lilibel
What's this about ? Gratuitous cuteness, would say my friends Virginia of Birmingham, Alabama or Bob Crowe of Saint Louis Daily Photo :-). Yes fully, but not only. This post is about a ceremony which I'd never heard of before and for which I fail to find a proper English translation. At a baptism in church, a godfather/godmother undertakes to supervise a child's religious education and to replace the parents should they disappear or be incapacitated. Did you know that in France an equivalent ceremony existed in a civilian context ? It's called "parrainage civil". Last wednesday afternoon I attended such a ceremony, which was held in the marriage room at the Town Hall. At the ceremony the two 'godparents' (for lack of a better term) are required to answer two questions:
- Mr. XX, do you accept to become XY's godfather and to fill in for her parents should the need arise ?
- Do you declare you agree to develop in the spirit of your goddaughter the indispensable qualities she needs so that when she reaches majority she is a citizen devoted to the public good and whose spirits are lifted by feelings of brotherhood, respect for freedom and private property and of solidarity towards her fellow man ?
(I've worked on the translation of this sentence for a long while and it still looks terrible but the original in French is so lengthy and full of pompous words that it is just impossible to keep it simple. Anyway, you get the idea).
After the pledge is taken, godparents and parents sign the register. Then lots of congratulations and kind words take place before the party of family and friends head off to the nice place where they will eat, drink and celebrate. Do I sound cheeky? In fact I really enjoyed the concept and message of this ceremony, one that remains totally confidential in France. I wouldn't mind seeing it becoming more popular. Would we have less graffiti in our streets if it were more common ?
Connaissez-vous le parrainage civil ? C'est une cérémonie qui se déroule à la mairie dans la salle des mariages. Elle réunit les parents, l'enfant, les parrain-marraine (ici, deux parrains) et tous ceux, famille et amis, qui souhaitent y assister. De quoi il s'agit ? Lisez ci-dessous le texte qui est lu aux parrains par l'officier d'état civil, vous comprendrez :
- M. XY, accceptez-vous d'être parrain de l'enfant XX et déclarez-vous prendre l'engagement de suppléer les parents de votre filleule ?
(ici, si tout va bien le parrain répond oui). Madame la maire adjointe poursuit :
- Déclarez-vous également accepter de développer en l'esprit de votre filleule les qualités indispensables afin qu'elle soit à sa majorité une citoyenne dévouée au bien public et animée des sentiments de fraternité, de compréhension, de respect de la liberté et du bien d'autrui et de solidarité à l'égard de ses semblables ?
Ensuite on pose les mêmes questions à l'autre parrain puis parents et parrains signent l'engagement. Après on se congratule, on est bien contents, et famille et amis s'en vont joyeusement manger et boire pour fêter ça.
J'ai été très touchée par cette cérémonie, d'abord à cause du texte de cet engagement que je ne connaissais pas et ensuite à cause de mon amitié pour les parents et parrains qui m'avaient invitée. Un très beau moment. J'aimerais bien voir l'usage de cette cérémonie se répandre. Aurions-nous moins de tags dans nos rues si elle se généralisait ?
The celebrant in the wedding room of the Avignon Town Hall.

21 comments:

Nathalie said...

In this case a religious christening had already taken place with the same two godparents so this civilian ceremony came to reinforce the strong links of friendship between them and the parents.

Bob Crowe said...

Okay, you got me. But it's really not gratuitous. The ceremony is a beautiful idea and unthinkable in the U.S. There are relatively few civil weddings in the here. Sure, you can get married by a judge (my sister was married by the mayor in my father's back yard) but most people do the church thing. It's utterly foreign to the American concept of religion and government to have a civil "christening." The pledge of the godparents is lofty, if unenforceable. Love the celebrant's sash. Who would wear one with stars and striped here? Sarah Palin, maybe.

Virginia said...

Oh Nathalie,
I"m so honored to be part of this wonderful post. What an absolutely adorable portrait of this delightful child. In my church, a baptism is an almost weekly part of our church service. We are so thrilled to welcome these young families into our church. This may be a different ceremony but may this precious child lead a full rich life surrounded by those that love and cherish her.
May God bless her and her loving family.
V

Jilly said...

First of all, a beautiful portrait of the child. How fascinating to read about this civil godparenting as it were. I suppose, if something did happen to the parents, it's not enforceable by law? A lovely idea tho and a totally fascinating post.

Nathalie said...

Bob, the celebrant's blue-white-red sash is compulsory every time the Mayor or other municipal officer acts in the name of the Republic, e.g. celebrates a wedding.

Civilian weddings at the town hall are compulsory in France. Religious weddings have no legal value at all.

If you have no particular religion your wedding will be at the town hall only. If you are religious, you'll have a civil wedding at the town hall followed by a religious wedding at the church, either all on the same day or on 2 consecutive days, e.g. civil wedding on the Friday with a small group of family/friends and a religious wedding at the church on the Saturday, attended by a much larger group and followed by a reception.

Weddings cannot be held anywhere else than at the Mairie - no weddings on the beach, in a park or at home in France.

Avignon said...

Non, j'ignorais que le parrainage civil était institué à ce point...
Un bon point.
J'ai croisé hier rue St-Étienne vers 15h30 la maman au petit chapeau mauve. Elle devait se rendre à la cérémonie.

Nathalie said...

Michel - elle devait en sortir plutôt. Nous sommes allés à pied jusqu'à la rue du chapeau rouge où se tenait la fête. Je devais marcher une centaine de mètres devant elle.

jeandler said...

Une découverte...
Superbe!

Les femmes sont, génétiquement parlant XX et les hommes, XY.
J'aime Monsieur XX et madame XY, comme tu l'écris!LOL.

fardoise said...

Je pensais aussi que cela restait informel, une occasion de faire la fête en famille seulement. Surprise par ce cérémonial. J'adore le bibi de la dame.

Peter said...

Excellent idea, never heard of it!

The portrait of Lillibel is fabulous! Bravo!!!

nathalie said...

Jeandler, honte à moi pour ces références inversées aux codes de la biologie. Je corrige. Tant pis pour ceux qui après toi n'auront pas le plaisir d'être surpris par cette inversion des genres :-))

amar said...

Nathalie c'est magnifique!!!

Jeandler n'indique pas ton erreur d'orthographe-il est trop poli!sourire *bonjour Jeandler*.Il sait ce que tu veux dire et on sait ce que tu veux dire.Ah oui tu as a ajouté de charme amusant a ce très magnifique texte et image.


Merci pour patager les lois de mariage, c'est raisonnable ces lois parceque en application le mariage a les conditions légals.

On sait ce que tu veux dire.

Le portrait de la petite fille est magnifique!Oui comme les autres disent j'envoie mes prières pour une bonne vie.

Cette céremonie est magnifique-si ca étend l'amour pourquoi pas?

Here in Canada it is just ceremony to give the title godfather and godmother to friends or relatives. It is not really taken seriously. I guess it is part of religion that has disolved with other practices. I guess at one time it probably was more serious.

Je suis marrainepour plusieurs enfants a travers les années de ma vie. Je ne les voient pas et ils ne me manquent pas parceque ce n'est pas pris au sérieux.Mais c'est un cadeau spirituel dans mon coeur et merci pour l'avoir allumé avec votre mangnifique présentation.!!!!!!!!
MERCI
belle journée magique chère Nathalie.!!!

amar said...

aurevoir petite mignonne.

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Bonjour! Nathalie...
Merci, for sharing...
The Photograph of...Elisabeth, also known as Lilibel.
By the way, both photographs are very nice too!

All the information is just that very informative too!
Nice translation!
DeeDee ;-D

Chri said...

Je vais me contenter de la bouille à croquer de Lilibel... Suis assez sensible aux bébés, ces temps ci... Me demande bien pourquoi...

amar said...

REally chère Nathalie, these posts are remarkable.

I have a vision-A huuuuuuuuuuuge leather bound book in the Avignon Town Hall of your posts of Avignon-in- photos!!!!

rauf said...

i like the name Lilibel more than Elizabeth.

The idea is good. The intentions are good. Never heard of such a ceremony Nathalie. Ideally, the pledge should be taken by a couple of same age as parents or younger, a bit older also is fine, but not by grand parents. Perhaps uncles aunts would fill the requirement. But the grand parents who adore their grand children would always come forward for such a ceremoney.
Celebration which follows also makes sense. People are invited and the society comes to know of the responsibility of the couple who took the pledge. A private and quiet ceremony is not effective. In case of any misfortune befalls the parents(not just disappearance, bankruptcy also should be incuded, where parents are unable to educate their children) the society reminds the grand parents of their responsibility.

What i would like to know Nathalie is, can an unmarried uncle or aunt take such a pledge ? ( i am thinking of Beethoven who took custody of his brother's son from an unwilling mother. He ultimately lost the case and the child was given back to the mother)

i thought for a while and came to a conclusion that grand parents taking the pledge is a better idea.

nathalie said...

Rauf, yes an unmarried couple can take the pledge :

The interesting bit here (which I didn't mention because I thought it would give the presentation a different twist) is that the 2 godfathers (no godmother as it were) are a gay couple - the one I showed kissing at the Gay pride a few months ago.

They are good friends of mine and a wonderful couple. Because they are gay, chances are that they will never have children of their own (France does not tolerate adoption by gay people) so this little girl is the closest they'll ever get to being parents. The pride and joy of these 2 men in being closely associated with this little girl's education and loving care was wonderful to see.

Bergson said...

je crois que le parrainage civil est en perte de vitesse pourtant avec les aléa de la vie et les conjonctures économiques désastreuses il faudrait y retourner

amar said...

How wonderful Nathalie -re your comment to rauf.
vive la libération.

Nathalie said...

Amar, you're probably one of the few who read that comment, since it came very late in the discussion. Nice, eh?

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