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Irish Christening Gowns – Much More Than Shamrocks and Lace

Irish christening gowns feature inspiring designs and generations of craftsmanship. Celtic christening gowns look stunning in embroidered shamrocks and Cluny lace. Although traditional, their charming Irish style allows for flexibility. The christening dresses might have shamrock lace, a shamrock inset, or other shamrock details. The gowns may have Victorian lace, Irish lace, or Venice lace.

Irish symbols can include Celtic crosses, the Claddagh, Celtic knot, or other Celtic symbolism. Irish christening gowns, just like Celtic wedding dresses, are embellished with ‘shingerleens’ (embellishments of Irish lace, embroidery, and ribbons). Some Irish parents have the family crest or the names of wearers embroidered on the christening gown, cape, or blanket. The Irish christening gown symbolizes purity, joy, faith, and new life.

Irish Christening Gowns

. Shamrock

The shamrock is one of the most well-known and popular Irish symbols. Symbolizing the Trinity, the shamrock usually adorns Irish christening outfits. The shamrock can be woven into the fabric or be featured in one or more places on the gown.

Shamrocks, either green or white, can decorate everything from christening dresses and rompers to headbands and christening bibs. Satin gowns with overlay organza can have scattered shamrocks and tiny pearls. Often the bodice of an Irish christening dress will have embroidered shamrocks.

Floral shamrock embroidery can fill the bodice, sleeves, and skirt of a christening dress. You can choose christening fashions with many shamrocks or just a few – even gowns with just a single shamrock. A boy’s soft gabardine, sailor-style, christening romper can have embroidered shamrocks and clovers on the chest. The matching christening hat may also sport a shamrock.

. Lace

Irish baptism dresses use all kinds of lace from French lace to Venetian lace. The Irish Cluny lace is a cotton lace. With a light and airy appearance, Cluny lace resembles the crochet stitch.

Irish christening gowns can feature lovely lace in elaborate style. Vertical lace can create separate ‘panels’ on a skirt that are deeply scalloped – each one with different embellishments. The center front can be breathtaking with a cross decorated with embroidered ribbons and beautiful flowers. The side panels could have shaped lace in a Celtic pattern and more lace can adorn the scalloped hemline.

. Irish Linen

Linen is a special fabric that has been woven from natural flax fiber for thousands of years. Linen is woven throughout the world and is a strong and resilient fabric. With its expert spinning, weaving, and finishing, Irish linen is recognized as the world’s finest linen. Fine linen from Ulster, Ireland, is a favorite for Celtic christening fashions including bonnets, under slips, and booties. 100% pure Irish linen can be decorated with tiny, embroidered Celtic knots, a row of shamrocks or rosebuds, and pretty pearls.

A lovely Irish linen gown is a delight with delicate Venice lace beading and shamrock lace featuring an embroidered Celtic cross with trinity knots and shamrock appliques. An Irish linen christening gown can have crosses and hearts on scalloped Victorian lace at the hemline. A gorgeous, little trouser set and Grandad shirt (with ‘grandad’ collar), can be made from pure Irish linen.

. Crocheting

Often crocheting will show up on Irish christening gowns (sometimes called ‘robes’ in Ireland). Crocheted in fine, mercerized cotton with a hint of shine, a bodice might feature a shamrock inset with picot chains and a satin ribbon at the front. Crocheting was introduced in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century.

Women and children were trained in the art. Within a few years, the Irish had become skillful enough to supply markets in Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, and New York. Crocheting work helped to supplement family income. Indeed, some Irish people used the money to immigrate to the United States.

. Smocked

Although Celtic christening dresses can have intricate detail, the smocked gown is also a longtime favorite in Ireland. Made from fine Irish linen, with triple pin tuck finishing detail across the hem, a lace-edged under slip, and matching bonnet, this simple style can reflect an air of elegance. Exquisite hand embroidery can adorn the bodice, bonnet, and sleeves of a soft, smocked christening gown.

. Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross shows up everywhere at Irish christenings. The Celtic Cross (or high cross) is a beloved Irish symbol. Maybe a single Celtic cross might be in the center of a skirt with white (or light green) shamrocks going around the hem.

Crossed shamrocks may rest on a bodice beneath a Celtic cross with heirloom leaves on either side. Shamrocks and leaves can continue around the hem of a christening gown. A boy’s christening romper might have embroidered Celtic crosses or his satin shoes might show off a Celtic cross.

The Celtic cross is believed to signify the four directions of the wind as well as the four seasons. The earliest known Irish high cross can be traced back to Donegal. The seventh century Carandonagh Cross was part of a hermitage in the northwest of the County.

. Celtic Knot

The Celtic Knot is a favorite adornment for Irish christening attire and accessories. The Celtic Knot design has been found in the jewelry of the Celts – even going back before the time of Christ. The Celtic Knot is associated with the ornamentation of early Christian monuments and manuscripts (such as the 8th Century Book of Kells). This Irish symbol is thought to protect against evil – the more complex the knotting, the greater the protection.

The Celtic Knot might show up on the bodice of a three-piece, puff sleeve, christening outfit with a Celtic floral lace trim. Even a blue Celtic knot cross may be featured on the bodice of a gown. Sometimes red roses surround a blue and gold knot cross while a shamrock, claddagh, and thistles go around the hem. Often below a center cross, the baby’s name and the date of the christening will be embroidered on the gown. Trinity Knots can be embroidered across the chest directly under the collar on christening rompers.

. Claddagh

The Claddagh (a ‘holding hands’ symbol – sign of friendship and love) is always seen on christening fashions. A gorgeous christening gown might have a satin ribbon band on the front yoke with a Claddagh applique. As well, christening accessories use the claddagh such as in a crystal rosary bracelet with pearls, cross, and a claddagh charm.

. Celtic Tree of Life

The Celtic Tree of Life is another Irish symbol that can be applied to a christening gown. The Celtic tree of life is supposed to deliver wisdom. The symbol is believed to deliver messages from the gods.

. St. Bridget’s Cross

St. Bridget’s Cross is a familiar Celtic symbol that shows up on Irish baptism gowns. Brigid’s crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare who is venerated as one of the patron saints of Ireland. Made from pure Irish linen, a christening gown can have a pin tuck skirt, satin ties at the back, and a St. Bridget’s Cross embroidered on the bodice.

. Tara Brooch Embroidery

Christening capes may use embroidery modeled after the Tara Brooch – one of Ireland’s best-known antiquities. Believed to be made about thirteen hundred years ago, the real Tara is an ornate Celtic ring brooch made of gold, silver, copper, amber and glass. The brooch was found on the seashore at Bettystown, south of Drogheda, and is now preserved in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

. Christening Capes

Christening capes – especially the Kinsale cloak – are popular for Irish babies. For hundreds of years in rural Ireland, wearing a hooded, full-length cloak was a tradition. Indeed, cloaks can still be seen in the area west of County Cork.

. Spirals

Pretty spirals float softly across Irish christening gowns. Prominently displayed on ancient Irish artifacts, Celtic spirals are second only to knotwork designs as the symbols most associated with Celtic art. Without any written history about spirals, there is still some mystery around their meaning. Within the Druid faith, it was forbidden to put sacred material into writing. No doubt, spirals represented something sacred to the Druid people.

Most scholars believe that because of their simplicity, spirals are symbols of the spiritual balance between inner and outer consciousness, the sun, and the cosmos. Some Celtic art scholars believe that the significance of the spirals may lie in their direction. Clockwise spirals may be associated with the sun and harmony with the earth. Counter-clockwise spirals might be associated with the manipulation of nature. Other people think that the Celtic spiral symbolizes the seasons of life and the cycles of time.

Often Celtic spirals are seen in ancient burial mounds and sacred places. Many believe that spirals have mystical powers that prevent evil from entering into a sacred tomb. In 1991, archaeologist Kate Johnson, at Arizona State University, conducted computer analysis on the structure of some Celtic spirals found in ancient rock carvings. He compared these spiral patterns with astronomical events that had occurred over the course of the last millennium. According to his research, the Celtic spirals were accurate representations of visible planetary configurations and the brightest fixed stars during total eclipses ages ago.

The Triskele (or triskelion) is a three-pronged spiral which is often used as a basis for more complex spirals. Some suggest ancient Celtic triskeles represented the Triple Goddess of the three ages of womanhood. Later, the symbol came to represent the Holy Trinity in Christianity – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The motif is based around the number ‘3’ regarded as a sacred number in many ancient cultures.

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