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This dictionary translates 干妈 as "Godmother", and my pocket dictionary also gives "nominal mother".

In English, "Godmother" and "Godfather" are very specific titles - Your Godparents are the people who sponsored your baptism (if you had one). Non Christians therefore do not have Godparents - indeed even many Christians do not.

My question is twofold:

  1. Is 干妈 the word that Chinese Christians use for the person who sponsored their baptism?
  2. Who else could be considered a 干妈. Where is the line between an older female friend of the family being a 干妈, and an 阿姨.
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what context did you encounter 干妈 in? the only time i've ever seen it is in 老干妈 brand 辣酱。 – Stumpy Joe Pete Feb 11 '13 at 9:09
@StumpyJoePete It is a common word in China, but a little bit hard to explain ... – fefe Feb 11 '13 at 9:52
@StumpyJoePete it was in a movie, a girl addressed an older woman 干妈 – jsj Feb 11 '13 at 12:27
up vote 7 down vote accepted

干妈 is a kind of relationship in Chinese culture. It has nothing to do with Christianity (Christian godparents are called 教父 教母). Like Christian godparents, 干妈 or 干爹 would usually sponsor the child in some aspect.

In Chinese tradition, 干妈 or 干爹 can act as real mother or father. They are different from 养父母 as they usually don't actrually raise the children.

To become a 干妈 or 干爹, there should be some kind of ceremony. With the consent of involving parties, anyone of approriate age can become a 干妈 or 干爹.

This relationship is not legally recognized.

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干妈 and 干爹 are used for describing the intimacy between two families. For example, two families are so intimate that the parents from one family treat the children of another family almost like their own. So the children may call the parents 干妈 and 干爹.

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