She was one week old. In our family, we don’t name newborns right away. We take a few days to observe the child’s demeanor and get acquainted with her spirit, first. On the seventh day, our family gathered for the naming ceremony. Everyone takes part in naming the baby, praying and speaking affirming words over her. We aren’t just naming her body. We’re naming her spirit.
We dressed ourselves and the baby in our finest garb then headed to the church. The rest of the family and the Pastor met us there. I was almost as excited about the ceremony as I was at the thought of meeting her when my labor pains began. I was eager then to seeing the face of the person that caused my body to reject my favorite foods as I carried her, and the face of the person that kick boxed with my ribcage and bladder during the latter part of my pregnancy. I had a name for her when I finally saw her: Xena the Warrior Princess. But I didn’t think that name would go over very well with her father and the rest of the family. My husband and I already agreed to call her Hadassah, because she is one of my favorite people in the bible. We want our daughter to grow up to be brave and have a love for God and her people just like the young lady many know as Esther.
At the ceremony, we prayed and sang. In between people called out potential names for our little girl. The godparents and grandparents touched the baby’s tongue with wine, salt, honey, cayenne pepper, coconut oil, water, lime and kola nut. These flavors symbolized the ups and downs of life and her ability to endure and overcome them. Then, my husband’s great-grandmother took and washed my baby with herbs. She wrapped her in an indigo quilt and examined my daughter’s face carefully. My child opened her eyes and looked into her great-great-grandmother’s face, and offered a quick smile. Everyone watched the exchange between the youngest and the eldest quietly. It was like they had a long exchange of thoughts in that brief moment and they seemed to come to an agreement. Great-grandmother kissed my daughter’s forehead and whispered her names in her ear. She placed my daughter in my arms and whispered the names in my ear, kissed my cheek, smiled and nodded in approval. I stood and, with my husband beside me, introduced my daughter to everyone,
“Her name is Hadassah Olufemi Zaria Eniola.”
Great-grandmother lead the family in affirming Hadassah’s name. They called my daughter brave and compassionate, loved by God, a beautiful and blossoming flower, and they called her wealthy. We name our children according to what we see in them and with for all the hopes and dreams we have for them. She will not recall the day she received her name, but she will know, every time we call her name, that we have great hopes for the type of woman she will become.