So I just went to a christening. I got invited to this because my father's company is doing a project in Syria and my dad put me in touch with two of the people working here on it, and one of them--a Syrian-American--was christening his baby.
This ceremony was particularly interesting because the situation was rather fraught. The father comes from a Muslim family. His wife is from a Christian family. His family is rather conservative, parts of it, and in Islam baptizing a baby--essentially removing it from Islam (unless it should choose to convert later on)--is blasphemy.
I didn't see much of the evidence of the tension, just a smaller family presence than I would have expected. But what I did see was a family full of people who had no idea what you do at a christening ceremony. The godfather had to tell everyone what to do, his wife was running back and forth with towels and candles, and everyone was generally a bit lost.
Also, a bunch of totally random Syrian people just sort of crashed the ceremony. They came into the church, saw what was up, got themselves candles and joined the procession around the baptismal font. The craziest thing about this is that it's completely normal. Syrians are very open and very interested in sharing; they want to be a part of things. It's sweet, once you know what's going on.
I had the strange experience throughout this day (there was lunch afterward) of being the Most Knowledgeable Foreigner, which really brought into focus how long I've been here and how soon I'm leaving. The rather strong culture shock I was experiencing (I was listening to people speak about their very wealthy lifestyles back home in London/Greece/New York and all I wanted to do was go smoke a cigarette with the waiters and chat in Arabic) made me even more reluctant to leave.
Oh well. It is what it is.