Wikipedia, today's source of all knowledge, defines it as someone who "takes a vested interest in the child's personal development." Traditionally, godparents are considered foster parents of a sort, those who will look after a child and be responsible for its upbringing should it be orphaned. But there are many kinds of godparents, in my opinion, namely:
1. The Mario Puzo godparent - these are the patron sort, chosen for their power and/or wealth, under the assumption that they will literally "protect" the child all their lives. Two of my godsons fall into this category, I think, not that I'm particularly wealthy or powerful. Sons of former officemates, I believe I was named godmother because at the time it seemed I would go far, career-wise. Numerous job changes over the years have left me out of contact with these godchildren, but just to be safe, I always have presents ready for them at Christmas.
2. The best friend/return favor godparent - these are the most common sort, as these godchildren are those whose development you most likely will assume a degree of vested interest in as the years go by. Good friends have children and name you godparent, so when it's your turn you're more or less obliged to do the same, though many times you "return the favor" out of free will. I am godmother to my best friend's son, and she is godmother to mine, likewise with my sister's eldest daughter.
3. The "no choice" godparent - some people either have more children than they do close friends and siblings, or get so excited with the eldest child's birth they name everyone near and dear godparents, leaving no one left to godparent their succeeding children. Suddenly, new friends and virtually anyone they know a little more than casually have equal chances of becoming godparents to children they may or may not particularly care for. The noble step up to the task and take a vested interest in the child, but others just show up at the christening and then vanish into oblivion by the time the child's second birthday rolls around. Sadly, I have a godson in this category who I have not now seen in over three years, but still always remember at Christmas.
What kind of godmother does that make me? My ardent wish, along with becoming a domestic goddess, is to be the Fairy Godmother - the one who makes every godchild's wishes (within reason, of course) come true. As it is, I'm known as the Book Godmother and Aunt - the one who only gives age-appropriate reading matter to nephews, nieces and godchildren, a tradition that started when my first niece was born 13 years ago. It's not that I mean to inflict my love of books onto these children, but that I truly believe in the value of reading and that there is no better time to fall into the habit than when one is a child. Children nowadays watch too much television and play too many video games, so adding to, or in some cases singlehandedly building, their libraries is my personal task. Not very fairylike, but it's a start. I need to keep my magic wand waving (yes, I do have one - when I bought one for each of Little A's godmothers, I kept one for myself) and start making those wishes come true. Bibbidee bobbidee boo!