In just a few short weeks, we’ll be breaking a bottle of Champagne with godmother Claudine Pépin in Barcelona to officially welcome Sirena to the fleet. Sirena’s intimate pierside christening will be followed by special inaugural sail away celebration, and plenty of festive events and receptions.
In honor of Sirena’s approaching christening, we decided to share a glimpse of the fascinating history behind a few classic inaugural maritime traditions.
The Naming & Christening Ceremony
Dating back thousands of years, this tradition began with the intention of bringing good fortune and safety to the new ship, crew and guests. Many ancient seafaring societies, such as the ancient Greeks, Babylonians and Vikings, had ship launching traditions. The Greeks donned olive branch wreaths around their heads, drank wine in honor of the gods and poured water over the new boat to bless it. The Babylonians sacrificed an ox and Vikings typically made blood offerings. Later, particularly in Great Britain, a member of royalty or nobility joined the crew for a ceremony that featured a ritual drink from a special goblet and a solemn name calling of the ship, which officially named the vessel. After taking a drink, the official poured what remained onto the deck or over the bow.
In 1797, the record of the launch of the USS Constitution notes the breaking of a bottle of Madeira wine over the bow. During the next century, the ritual of breaking or pouring a christening beverage on a new ship changed and evolved. Brandy, wine, grape juice, water and even bourbon were all used. The arrival of Champagne as the favored choice seems to have coincided with the new era of steel – the Navy’s first steel battleship, USS Maine, was christened with Champagne in 1890. It may also have simply been Champagne’s association with luxury, exclusivity and celebration. During the Prohibition, ships were christened with water, juice or cider. Afterward, Champagne quickly returned with the passage of the 21st Amendment and has remained the most popular choice ever since.
The Godmother Tradition
In earlier ceremonies, the act of christening a ship was mostly performed by religious men, nobility or officials. In the 1700s in France, christenings had both a male and female counterpart with the godfather presenting the godmother with flowers as they both said the ship’s name. Beginning in the early 1800s, women that had ties to the ship began to hold the honor of christening ships. Eventually, women in this role became customary, and Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret Truman, Audrey Hepburn, Kate Middleton and Sophia Loren have all been godmothers over the years. We look forward to officially welcoming Claudine to this pantheon of women in April.
Join us to welcome Sirena in 2016 – her Inaugural Season features exclusive events, signature cocktails and more!