The tradition of christening bonbonniere is something that has crossed over from a long-held wedding custom and involves presenting each of your guests with a small gift.
Christening bonbonniere are also sometimes be referred to as ‘bombonniere.’ This slight variation reflects the original Italian spelling of this word, which means ‘favours.’
Originally, the standard christening bonbonniere gift, as with wedding bonbonniere, was a tulle bag of sugared almonds. But today christening bonbonniere range from personalised chocolates, tiny labelled lolly jars or decorated shortbread biscuits, through to tiny ornaments, photo frames or money boxes.
Often christening bonbonniere will include a gift tag with a photo of the baby who is about to be christened, or a photograph or baby’s name may be engraved or printed on the gift itself.
Christening bonbonniere that might be appropriate in a formal or quite religious setting can include miniature christening candles or other religious accessories such as a small cross engraved with baby’s name,
Christening Bonbonniere history
Gifts of fruit or nuts were given to wedding guests in Roman times and for several centuries there has been a European wedding custom where each guest is presented with a white tulle bag tied with satin ribbon that holds five sugared almonds (there are called ‘confetti’ in Italian, quite different to the coloured paper we think of as confetti!)
The five sugared almonds are also called Jordan almonds and when used in a wedding, they are typically coloured white; almonds used in christening bonbonniere could also be either pastel blue or pastel pink, depending on the gender of the baby.
Jordan almonds were described in literature as early as the 1350s, in the Decameron novellas of Giovanni Boccaccio.
In medieval Europe, sugar was imported from the East and most of it refined in Venice, so it was a rare and expensive delicacy.
Gifts of sweets made of boiled sugar, including nuts coated in sugar (called comfits) were often packaged in lovely porcelain or even gold containers.
Wealthy aristocrats would give these to impress and attract the approval or favour of the guests attending weddings, christenings and other important ceremonies. These ‘favours’ were called bomboniere.
Christening bonbonniere cake
Another more modern Italian tradition involving christening bonbonniere is the creation of a favour cake, or Torta Bomboniera, which is a collection of tiny decorative gift boxes containing sugared almonds or other mementos, which are designed to fit together to make a structure that resembles a cake.
There are a number of christening bonbonniere specialists now which sell these ‘cakes’ or if you’re crafty, it’s possible to make your own with round hat-boxes and tiny cardboard boxes.
When guests are leaving, the host hands each guest a piece of the ‘cake’ to say thank-you.
A different and new type of bomboniera is the Favor Cake or “Torta Bomboniera” as it is called in Italy. They are made using little carton box forming one or more tier of a “cake”.
Inside each box there are the sugared almonds and a card printed with the data of ceremony (names, date etc.). On each box there are glued several types of fine objects made of many materials.
Christening bonbonniere are also often used as table decorations, with each small gift placed beside the guests’ place settings in the dining area at the christening celebration.
This article was written by Fran Molloy, www.ultraverse.com.au, journalist and mum of four