Every culture has a distinct (and sometimes unbelievable!) way of celebrating the arrival of a new life. While in India, parents shave their baby’s hair, dab honey on his tongue, pierce his ears and take him to their place of worship, new parents in other countries do things quite differently. Now that we have your curiosity piqued, let us tell you how people from different cultures welcome babies into the world and their homes.
Rituals That New Parents Do To Celebrate Their Baby’s Birth
1. Leaving the Baby to Nap Outdoors in Freezing Temperatures – Denmark & Sweden
No, Danish and Swedish mothers aren’t stone-hearted! In Denmark and Sweden, they believe that exposing a baby to the local climate – be it summer or winter – will help him sleep better and feed more. So, parents leave their baby to nap on the balcony or sidewalk and enjoy some baby-free time in stores and cafes. Some parents, in fact, have baby alarms that alert them when their newborn has woken up so that they can go outside and bring him into the house!
2. Using the Maternity Package Gift From the Government – Finland
Finland is one of the few countries where the birth of babies is acknowledged and celebrated by the government. New mothers come home from the hospital to find a ‘maternity package’ left on their doorstep. The package is basically a starter kit that contains all the essentials the newborn would need – from clothes, diapers and sheets to toys; everything is there in the box! The government initially devised the ‘maternity package’ scheme keeping low-income families in mind. But, it has been made available to all parents since 1949 so that every baby – rich or poor – can get an equal start to life. What’s best, this care package is given not just to expectant mothers, but also to adoptive parents!
3. Not Allowing the Baby’s Feet to Touch the Ground – Bali
Babies are no less than divine beings that have descended from heaven, the Balinese people believe. So, until 210 days from birth, parents don’t allow their baby’s feet to touch the ground. The little one receives the ultimate royal treatment and is not allowed to come in contact with the floor in any way. When his feet touch the ground for the first time, it’s believed that he has ‘crossed over’ to the other world and become human!
4. Giving Red-dyed Eggs as Return Gifts – China
In Chinese tradition, the birth of a baby isn’t celebrated right away. Instead, parents wait till their baby turns 1-month-old to host a ‘Full Moon Ceremony’. This ceremony is attended by family and friends who come bearing gifts for the newborn and his parents. However, they don’t return empty-handed – the new parents give their guests red-dyed eggs in return. There are three reasons for this – red is believed to be a sign of happiness, the oval shape is symbolic of longevity, and the egg represents the changing process of life.
5. Burying the Placenta and Umbilical Cord – Jamaica
In Jamaica, the mother’s placenta (also known as afterbirth) and the baby’s umbilical cord are buried at a specific location in the house. Later, a tree is planted at that spot. The parents care for the tree until their baby grows up and starts tending to the tree by himself. This tradition is meant to teach the child to take responsibility in life.
6. Rocking the Baby in a Large Sieve – Egypt
Egyptian culture formally acknowledges babies only after they are a week old. On the 7th day of a baby’s life, his parents host a naming ceremony called Sebou. The baby is clothed in white robes and placed in a large sieve. Then, he is gently rocked back and forth. The Egyptians believe that doing this gets the baby accustomed to the vagaries of life. Next, he is laid on a blanket on the floor with a knife placed along his chest. The mother side-steps seven times over her baby to ward off evil spirits, as the guests sing and shower the baby with grains, gifts and gold. They also light several candles and assign different names to them. The candle that burns the longest will decide the baby’s name.
7. Symbolic Items Choosing Ceremony – Armenia
No parent wants to miss the chance to get a sneak peek into their child’s future. When an Armenian baby gets his first tooth, a ceremony called Agra Hadig takes place. Parents place their baby on the floor and surround him with a stethoscope, a tape measure, a screwdriver, a book and other symbolic objects. He is then encouraged to crawl towards the items and reach out to one of them. The object grabbed by the little one is believed to symbolise his future. For example, while a stethoscope is associated with medicine, a tape measure is associated with construction. Whether to take it seriously or not is up to the parents.
8. Full Body Exfoliation and Hot Stone Massage for New Moms – Malaysia
After birth, the person a baby needs most is his mother. Malaysian traditions recognise this and take efforts to help the new mom relax and recuperate from childbirth. For 44 days following the baby’s birth, a Malay mom undergoes a pantang (confinement) when she does nothing apart from nursing her baby. She is also given hot stone massages and a full body exfoliation treatment which soften and lighten her skin, thus preserving her health and femininity. New moms are forbidden from lifting heavy things, and the household chores fall to the father, relatives or a hired domestic help.
9. Giving the Baby Twenty Names – Nigeria
Babies born in Nigeria are blessed with certain elements on the seventh day (for a baby girl) and ninth day (for a baby boy) of their birth. The infant’s lips are brushed with water, palm oil, bitter kola and salt and pepper. This is believed to ward off enemies and help the baby have a smooth and long life filled with happiness. Apart from the name chosen by the parent, the baby is given 20 other names that describe the circumstances of his birth. For example, if he has twin siblings, he would get the name Idowu, which means ‘child born after twins’. Often, parents come up with pet names like Ayoke, which means ‘one who is blessed’. Guests are also invited to name the baby, before which they have to place money in a basket. And that’s how Nigerian babies carry twenty names throughout their lives!
10. Souvenir Basket for Visitors – Brazil
In Brazil, celebration begins in full swing even before the baby is born! Expecting moms prepare souvenir baskets which are later given to those who visit the mother and baby after delivery. The baskets usually contain candies, fridge magnets, customised notepads and even tiny bottles of perfume with the baby’s name on them. There’s also a message thanking the person for visiting. Such a sweet gesture, don’t you think?
11. Shoving the Baby Into Chilled Water – Guatemala
In tropical countries like Guatemala, people believe that an ice bath does wonders for the baby. Hence, every new mom soaks her infant in chilly water and turns a blind eye if he starts crying. A popular belief among the Mayans is that the baby sleeps soundly after an ice bath. We don’t know whether that’s true, but old midwives say that it cures the baby’s heat rash.
12. Slaughtering a Sheep – Islamic countries
In Islamic culture, the birth of a baby is celebrated by sacrificing an animal such as a goat or sheep. This is called Aqiqah and believed to be an important ritual. Some families themselves slaughter the sacrificial animal while others bring home meat and cook up a feast. Once the food is prepared, it is divided into three portions – one for the immediate family, one for relatives and friends and one for the poor.
Every culture treats babies like little kings and queens, and why not – these tiny divine beings need all the love and attention they can get! Which of the above traditions surprised and shocked you the most? Tell us in the comments!