Ship Christening and the Custom of Breaking Bottle of Wine against the New Ship’s Hull

The anticipation with anything new is always the best of its kind. There is a bubbly nervous energy before something new is about to begin. It comes as no surprise that a ship launch with her maiden voyage has always been surrounded with similar nervous jubilant energy as well. Everything within human capacity is done to ensure that the ship would be protected at all times. It safe departure and then a successful arrival after her voyage is what everyone prays for.

 

 

Ship christening is typically the ceremony that officially marks the beginning of a ship’s life. This is the ceremony where the ship is presented to the world, with blessings of Gods and the ship leaves the docks for the first time. Launching a ship is an event of fanfare, one that is surrounded by loved ones, well wishers and spectators. Lots of traditions have been known to exist for christening ceremony of a ship.

Breaking a wine bottle on ship hull is probably one of the best known of them. Ideally, a wine or sometimes a champagne bottle is smashed against the ship’s bow. The flowing liquid is supposed to bring good luck (besides just setting the mood for a great party). Traditionally, it was a bottle of spirit which later became wine of champagne all around the globe.

However, this tradition goes back a long way. Even during the times of Vikings, this tradition existed, with a slight modification though. Then, it was believed, that human blood on the bow of a ship brought good luck for the ship. It was seen as a sign of sacrifice made to the God of sea for the safety of ship through all the times of turmoil.

Before practice of breaking a wine bottle on ship hull became famous, the practice was to spill a liquid from a special cup from the ship’s deck, overboard. This cup was made of precious metals, adorned with jewels. The liquid in the cup changed from wine to champagne to sometimes water of certain rivers (especially in US). This practice was especially famous during the 17th century but was given up when shipping industry underwent a major revolution. With so many ships being launched daily, probably the metal cup became a little expensive. This practice was given up and made way for present day’s traditions.

At present, christening a ship is a mixture of traditions and fanfare all done to provide good luck for coming days. However, Lady Luck has always been given a lot of importance amongst all this. That is why almost every ship christening is done by a woman. This is a tradition that has also been followed ever since start of marine transportation many centuries ago.

A woman launching a ship is supposed to bring better luck. Traditionally, a woman acts as the ship’s godmother, seeking god of sea to look after the ship and shower her with its blessings. This is followed by the well known bottle breaking. Sometimes, green leaves are also waved from across the ship deck to wave off any unwanted vibrations around the ship. This supposedly wards off unpleasantness from ship and makes way for its happy departure, a safe sail and a successful way back home.

Christening ceremony of a ship is completed with revealing the ship’s name. Traditionally, a ship’s name is not revealed until total good luck for it has been assured. Ship launch is considered complete only when the bottle is broken and finally the ship’s name is revealed to the world. It is only after this ceremony that ship is considered adequately protected.

Ships are not a mere mode of transportation for many people involved with the industry. For years they have been the reason for existence of many seafarers and continue to be so even today. All the ceremonies may or may not have any scientific logical explanation to their accord but that does not undermine them in anyway. People continue to believe in them and as long as they do, breaking a wine bottle on a ship’s hull will keep bringing good luck.

 

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References:

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Image Credits:

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