Sep 052009

(asked by Abigail from somewhere)

What’s the deal with French males (even babies) and those gold religious medals worn around the neck? What are those things? I worked as an au pair for a French family many years ago and their 10 month old baby wore one always — when he slept, bathed, played — they never took it off him. In retrospect this seems kind of dangerous, to put a metal chain and a small pendant (perfect size for choking) around an infant’s neck? This family was not the least bit religious and I never understood the reason for the baby necklace. Over the years, I’ve noticed the same little necklaces worn by French boys in French films.
Enlighten me!

Interesting question Abigail! To be honest I had forgotten that such medals existed, thanks for refreshing my memory.

So what’s up with those?

Well, traditions are hard to die sometimes.
These medals –if I’m not wrong- come from a time when religion still played a role in French society and represent a saint that is supposed to protect the child from baptism and on.
Nowadays, they’re still a tradition in certain families, regardless if the family is actually religious or not. And yes, a bunch of French people will baptize their kids even if they’re not that religious; remember religion is a matter of tradition in France and not really anything else.

Sometimes, the medal will be transmitted from generation to generation (much less nowadays as grandparents tend to be alive when they grandchildren are born) or bought for the occasion, with the name and the date of birth of the child engraved on the back.

Are they choking hazard? Well, last time I checked, I didn’t see any unusual percentage of choking on medals among infant deaths in France, and believe me if they were, they wouldn’t be that common (but are they that common nowadays? I’m not sure).

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