Eurasian Customs - Birth of a New Born Baby

Eurasian Customs - Birth of a New Born Baby

Just how do Eurasian families welcome a child into their home and lives, in the ever-changing cosmopolitan face of Singapore today? Hana Schoon explores.

Just how do Eurasian families welcome a child into their home and lives, in the ever-changing cosmopolitan face of Singapore today? Hana Schoon explores.

The arrival of a newborn is one of the most important milestones to commemorate in any culture – signifying transitions into parenthood, and more importantly, the miracle of new life.

Eurasian Customs

With the Eurasian community being a predominantly Roman Catholic one, religion plays a big role in shaping culture and values. Catholic rites like water baptism are very much part and parcel of welcoming a new member into the family.

Being Eurasian often means an intermingling of two different cultures and a fine marriage of both European and Asian values. Arguably, much of the communities of Eurasians in Asia today stem from colonial expansion and trading exploration back in the early days. According to the statistics from the Singapore Population Census in 2000, one can roughly estimate between 15,000 to 30,000 Eurasians in Singapore today, making up less than 1% in our population of over three million. Collectively, the Eurasians make up a small colourful, ethnic community, fusing together various cultures and different backgrounds – and that little something that is truly, uniquely their own.

Here are three interesting customs observed by families, as featured in the Eurasian Showcase, at the Eurasian Community House in Ceylon Road.

(1) Naming Baby

Like many traditions the world over, which believe that names have to be carefully chosen for babies as the start of a good, meaningful life ahead, many Eurasians turn to the Book of Saints, for the rich biblical meanings and origins behind each name. Most Eurasians also have a middle name – after relatives like a grandparent, an uncle or an aunt.

Parents usually snip off a lock of hair for keepsake, along with the child’s other firsts. Some couples, like Ryan and Sue Pereira, parents to eight-month-old Emily, go a step further to preserve those first locks, turning them into calligraphy brushes. “It’s a great innovative way to preserve something that is part of our firstborn, and we intend to give them to her when she is older. Besides, Emily had such a thick, full head of hair – we couldn’t resist!”

(2) Godparents

The selection of godparents is common in the Eurasian community. In the book, Gateway to Eurasian Culture, Dr Diane Kraal, Honorary Research Fellow, Faculty of Law and Management at La Trobe University, writes, “It is also important to choose one or two godparents for the child, who should be practicing Christians as they will be responsible for the child, should anything happen to the parents. Thus, they will need to lead a good Christian life, be close to the family and be willing and able to help out if needed.”

True to tradition, the godparents are usually chosen from each side of the family – one from the father’s and one from the mother’s side. Being a godparent is a commitment that starts when the child is an infant and follows well into adulthood. Often, the godparents are also called to be the sponsor of child’s marriage in the future.

(3) Baptism

Infant baptism


A water baptism is usually carried out in within the first month from birth. As Catholics, baptism is a very important rite for newborns, as it officially initiates them into the Catholic faith and marks the beginning of a spiritual journey with a higher order. Baptism is when the godparents are called to duty, with the shared responsibilities for the child’s moral upbringing.

Dr Kraal explains in her book, “Water is a powerful symbol of rebirth. The first baptism cleanses the child of ‘original sin’ (the innate sin of mankind) in order to enter Heaven.” During baptism, the priest will either sprinkle holy water over the infant’s head, or lightly immerse the infant.

The firstborn wears a white christening robe made from the veil or train of the mother’s bridal gown. As with most cultures, the colour white is a symbol of purity and new life. For new mother, Rachel De Souza, 29, this is one of the old-time traditions she remembers and fondly holds dear, but chose to do so with a modern, more practical twist. The preschool teacher sewed a piece of her wedding dress onto the hem of her daughter’s dress for the christening ceremony. She shares, “Tradition aside, it’s a beautiful expression of love, to be able to give this little piece of me something from the union that created her!”

Following baptism, it is common to have a tea party or small gathering among close friends and relatives, who bring well-wishes and gifts. This baptism celebration is where families from both sides bring out their best recipes passed down through the years – think traditional, mouthwatering Eurasian favourites like Sugee cake, tarts, torte cakes and savory dishes like Devil’s Curry!

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Written by

Hana Schoon

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