A few years ago, as part of my work as a baptism photographer in Nicosia, I photographed the christening of a beautiful baby named Despina—the first child to be welcomed by a beaming young couple. This year, much to my surprise, I heard from them again—to my delight, I discovered that Despina now has a sibling, Chrisanti, whose christening needed to be photographed.
This, of course, was a momentous occasion—the baptism of a sibling represents not only one of the best days in a parent’s life, but also in the life of his or her children. It is the start of a beautiful lifelong relationship, one which enriches the whole family in ways too numerous to count: The attachment between siblings.
To give a child a sibling, many people say, is to give the greatest gift of all; a sibling is more than just company, more than a playmate—he or she often becomes a child’s best and closest lifelong friend. For Despina, Chrisanti will be the person who has known her through each phase of her life while also sharing the same journey, whose personality has developed in tandem with hers, weaving an unbreakable bond.
While siblings often compete and sometimes don’t see eye to eye, no matter their differences, they drop them when it’s time to act as a protector at school, a confidant when times get tough, or a teacher who is not so far away in age that they cannot be related to as a peer. Having a sibling teaches a child that someone will always be there no matter what silly fights you’ve had, no matter what else is going on in life; the value of forgiveness is taught along with the values of compromise and loyalty.
For parents, watching their children play and grow together is often a profound experience, too, one which reminds them of the value of communication, openness, and spontaneity in their own interactions, and reinforces how much can be achieved when we set aside our differences in order to help and learn from one another.
And for the whole family, for years to come, the presence of siblings is a gift that keeps on growing; it ensures that there will be aunts and uncles (and probably a whole network of cousins) for the next generation, creating a web of love and traditions that pass from elder to younger. Indeed, this christening invoked one such long-standing tradition; it took place at the same church, the Ayios Spridion, where this family has been christened for generations.
For little Despina, having a beautiful set of christening photos will be more than just having a memento from a lovely day—it will give her the ability to look back and remember the first major event she shared with her sister—the first time she got to help guide her through one of life’s many rites of passage, and the moment when she could officially introduce her little sister to the rest of the extended family.