what's the origin of silver spoons as christening gifts?


i was cleaning my silverware and found my old christening spoon, that my godparents offered to me. these days kids usually get colorful toys, but this practice was pretty common when i was born [and before that, of course].

i began thinking about it and tried to find more information on this.
the only thing i found was a link to the expression ‘being born with a silver spoon on his/her mouth’, as in, hoping the baby grows up rich and prosperous.

but, as far as i know, in my country there’s no such expression, well, not involving silver spoons anyway… and the silver spoon as a christening gift was still a given.

anyone know what the origin of this tradition is?

Well, down here in Old Money families where one is expected to debut and such (er, as in, not in this house) a baby girl is given a pin in the shape of a spoon, which is her silver pattern. (In other words, it’s a Chantilly spoon or whatever pattern has been chosen for her.) Then, for the rest of her life, on gift-giving occaisions she’ll receive pieces of silver - so not just at her wedding. (Of course, these girls have fingerbowls and individual butter knives and shrimp forks for every setting and all.) However, I’m pretty sure this is regional and limited to a certain social class. Is it done this way all over the South? Surely other people must do it or you couldn’t get your Chantilly spoon pin, right? (Right?) I’m sure it’s not just an Old Columbia thing.

(Oh, and to you common folk - that little bowl with the rose petals in it is not soup. FYI.)

It’s not tea either. :smiley:

well this probably doesn’t answer that question, but i found an article that mentioned briefly that in the past rich families would get toys and all sorts of silver utensils for their babies, merely because silver was precious, and that the poorer families could only afford a piece or two, so they would usually offer a spoon to the baby. i guess that doesn’t answer everything, but it’s a start.

From Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things:

Whaddaya know! Inigo scores a serious GQ answer!

That does not mean “hoping the baby grows up rich and prosperous”, it means the person was born rich / well-connected. Or, what Inigo posted with more words.

Do zombies get silver spoons, too? :dubious:

Actually, until recently this custom made sense not only for the rich families, but also for the middle class: at each birthday, one gift for the child was part of a cutlery set - in middle class, not silver, but nice-looking and hard wearing. So when the child was 18 and ready to move out of the house, the expensive cutlery set was already present for establishing your own household. The more expensive shops offer long-running lines of cutlery and plates for this reason, so that people can keep on-going gifts.

The other advantage is that this method solves both the problem of “what gift do we give this year?” and having three teddy bears from different relatives.

And after all, a spoon (irrespective of whether or not it’s made of precious metals) is an intrinsically useful gift for a new child: once they’re eating solid foods, they need a small spoon to eat with. Making the spoon personalized with an image of a patron saint, or valuable by virtue of its luxury material, is just a way of symbolizing a welcome to the child and/or showing off the family’s or donor’s wealth.

An exactly parallel custom is the tradition of giving silver christening mugs, i.e., baby-sized cups. Kid’s going to need something to drink out of, so you give him/her a mug; and to mark the specialness of the occasion you make the mug a fancy or luxury object.

This thread was bumped by a spammer, but since actual discussion has resumed, I’ll leave it open.

twickster, moderator