The Naming Ceremony symbolizes the children’s entrance into society.
In Jonas's community, there is a special ceremony each year to mark a growth milestone from the age of One to Twelve, when the children are basically no longer considered children. Children's ages are counted differently in the community.
Each December, all the newchildren born in the previous year turned One. One at a time--there were always fifty in each year's group, if none had been released --they had been brought to the stage by the Nurturers who had cared for them since birth. (Ch. 2)
Since all of the children born in a year turn One at the same time, some of them are much older than others. Some of them are just born, and others are walking. At the ceremony, they are given their names and their families.
In Jonas’s community, families are not created in the usual way. Children are born from Birthmothers, where they have been genetically created to fit the genetic requirements of Sameness. This way the community maintains population control and everyone looks, while not exactly alike, pretty similar.
Family units are made up of men and women who apply for spouses for the sole purpose of child-rearing. The family unit breaks up once the last child is gone. There is no affection between spouses, and little for the children. Love, as we know it, does not exist either between spouses or between parents and children.
Each family unit consists of two children only—a boy and a girl. The adults apply for children when they feel ready, and they apply for the boy and girl a few years apart to ensure that the family unit remains stable.
The Naming Ceremony is the first time the babies, called Newchildren, actually enter the community. Up until this point, they have lived at the Nurturing Center and been cared for by a staff of Nurturers that varied and had no attachment to them. All fifty of them are brought out at once during this ceremony, unless one has been released because it did not meet growth targets.
At every other public ceremony, the audience was silent and attentive. But once a year, they all smiled indulgently at the commotion from the little ones waiting to receive their names and families. (Ch. 6)
The growth targets are very strict, and there are few exceptions. Gabriel is a very unique case, because apparently Jonas’s father has more empathy than most people in Jonas’s community. He tries to get Gabriel a reprieve and give him another chance at life when he does not fall into line like the other babies.
Babies who do not sleep on schedule, grow on schedule, or are identical twins face release. Identical twins are released immediately, because there is too much danger in having two identical people walking around. It would be confusing. They choose the smaller one and release it. In other cases, the baby might be allowed to live a year before it is released.
Release of newchildren was always sad, because they hadn't had a chance to enjoy life within the community yet. And they hadn't done anything wrong. (Ch. 1)
Gabriel makes it two years before he is scheduled for release. By then, Jonas knows what release means and refuses to accept this. He takes Gabriel and runs.
The treatment of Newchildren is one of the more brilliant and terrible conditions of the community. By having babies created and assigned this way, the community ensures that no one really develops an attachment to them, and they never really develop an attachment to anyone else. The first year of life is crucial to forming bonds, and the children are kept in an institutional environment. This ensures the type of emotional detachment the community needs to quash emotions.