Being a die-hard atheist, I never imaged I would become a Godmother or such a character. Yet I became one yesterday to a large ship named Lentikia. Great fun!
It took place in a shipyard in Zhoushan, some four hours drive South of Shanghai. The bulk carrier’s owner Patrice, a wealthy half Brazilian and half French businessman, had wanted a famous Chinese writer or singer who can speak some English to be the Godmother to christen the ship. The occasion is also known as the naming ceremony. A friend recommended me. Patrice liked the sound of me and I was delighted to take up this highly unusual gig – being paid to knock a bottle of Champagne against the ship. I was particularly pleased after I discovered that plenty of celebrities, such as former American president Regan’s wife Nancy, had christened ships.
I had travelled from Shanghai with Patrice and his colleagues the day before.
It rained lightly yesterday, which didn’t damp people’s mood in the slightest – raining was supposed to be a good sign. There are a lot of superstitious practices involving the christening of a boat. I guess people tend to be this way when the stake is high. Lentikia is an Italian word for lentil. Grain is supposed to be auspicious. This is very much in line with the Chinese tradition. The five grains – rice, millet, sorghum, wheat and soybeans – are also regarded as auspicious and were frequently used in imperial rituals.
A band was playing when a bus load of VIPs arrived at the shipyard. The guests included the owner (Patrice has always held a fascination with ship and voyage. So he thought, why not owning one?), the company operates the ship, bosses of the Chinese company that built the ship and Swiss bankers who financed it.
The ceremony took place in a make-ship stage, cheerfully decorated in red and gold, in front of the magnificent ship with a capacity of holding 38600 tons of goods. Standing amid the VIPs, all dark suits-clad men, I looked around at the shipyard, at the workers lined up in the drizzle, and all the flowers and banners. I had a surreal feeling. After all the speeches by relevant parties, it was my turn to name the boat. Reading out from a leaflet printed with my name and picture, I pronounced solemnly: I name this vessel “Lentikia”. May God bless her and all who sail on her. May she sail gracefully and trade profitably.
I’ve practiced my line enough not to make any mistake. Then it came the highlight – knocking Champagne. The traditional way was to smash Champagne against the bow of the boat, which meant to bring good luck. This modern method tied a bottle to a rope. All I needed to do was to cut the rope. With an axe I was given, I chopped with all the power I had. Sure enough, the rope broke and the Champagne – French made, not Erguotou – smashed into the metal surface of the ship and broken. Everyone cheered and Fireworks erupted.
All the while, cameras clicked. I smiled charmingly (trying), as if I were a star. A ship’s godmother is supposed to be the star of the day. Why not? I am always good at squeezing pleasures out of life. Maybe this auspicious role I played can also bring some good luck to my own life.