In many of our Latine communities, presenting your children to God on their third birthday is a tradition; it is celebrated especially in Mexico. Originally as a pastor, I didn’t have any knowledge of this celebration, its origin or why people kept asking for it. After doing some research, I came to understand the reason behind this tradition: give thanks to God for the life of these children who, in the past, due to the many diseases common back in the day, were not able to live to their third birthday.
Typically, the tradition involves the following aspects. Usually, families will come to church and ask for a special worship service (usually on a Saturday), a service of thanksgiving, as part of this special birthday celebration. If the child is a girl, she will wear an elaborate gown, almost like a Quinceañera; the boys will wear tuxedos. It is normal for the family to bring a group of the child’s friends or relatives (of around the same age) as their “maids of honor” and “men of honor.” As pastors, we need to be aware of the dynamics of dealing with between ten to fifteen children, three to five years of age, during both the rehearsal and the service itself—plus the parents, grandparents, and older siblings. It is also important to keep in mind that this service of thanksgiving is an important tradition in the lives of parents and grandparents. My suggestion: put together a regular Order of Service, pick meaningful readings, singable hymns, and keep the sermon short. Perhaps spend more time on the prayers and the blessing. Sometimes, families will not want communion to be included in the service, but it is a good practice to explain to them the importance of including communion as part of this celebration.
This religious service is part of a larger celebration, which, depending on the financial situation of the family, will include the rental of a ballroom, beautiful decorations, a mariachi band, a big cake, a dinner, clown show, piñata, DJ, professional video and photography and an invitation to all their relatives and friends. Many of these celebrations can easily include two hundred guests and run into the thousands of dollars. But for the families who are giving thanks to God for the life of a child, it is worth it.