Unique Baby Traditions Observed Around The World
From India to Turkey, Japan to Bali – baby traditions around the world offer a fascinating glimpse into the age-old customs of a country. Let us look at some unique baby traditions observed!
By Ashwin Dewan
“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” Gustav Mahler
The Oxford dictionary defines tradition as a belief, custom or way of doing something that has existed for a long time. You would be surprised to find the countless unique traditions that are present in every country, society, and households. Many of these traditions relate to the celebration of different festivals, the rejoicing of a marriage, the purchase of a new car or a new house, etc.
However, all these seemingly pale in comparison to the traditions followed by people when it comes to the birth of a baby. From the mundan ceremony in India to celebrating a baby’s birth with red rice and read bean dish in Japan, drinking sherbet in Turkey to gold bangles in Guyana, baby traditions around the world provide a glimpse into the deep-rooted and often colourful outlook of the people of a particular place.
By now, we are sure you are curious to know all about these traditions. So, without further delay, here are the top picks of the unique baby traditions around the world.
Also read:How to choose the right baby name
Unique baby traditions around the world
1. India: Head shaving and ear piercing
India is a land of many customs and traditions. In fact, some customs date back to hundreds of years and are still followed with great fervour. Among these innumerable customs and traditions, these two Indian baby traditions are followed across the length and breadth of the country.
“Do shave off your baby’s hair, it will grow back much thicker”. All parents, at some point of their lives, have experienced this advice when it comes to their baby’s hair. In India, the head shaving ceremony is called mundan. In both the Hindu and Muslim communities, this takes place in the first three years after birth for varying reasons. For Hindus, this tradition helps the baby get rid of past-life negativity and cleanses his body and soul. Muslims believe shaving the head off a baby displays the little one as a servant of Allah.
Another tradition followed in many places of India is the ear-piercing ceremony that takes place within the first to third year after birth. Among the Hindus, this ceremony is done as part of a ritual called Karna Vedha. This tradition is believed to ward off the evil eye and is mostly done for baby girls. However, ear piercing is also believed to bestow certain health benefits such as regularity in the menstrual cycle and prevention of anxiety.
2. Tibet: Two banners are hung outside the house
Tibetans are followers of Buddhism and flags and banners are special to them. They follow a unique tradition when it comes to the birth of a baby. After the birth of a baby, two large banners are hung outside that house. Each banner serves an individual purpose – the first banner is to protect the baby from evil while the second banner is said to bring good fortune for the newborn. Also, parents do not celebrate the birth of a bay until the third day. On the third day after birth, when friends and family visit the mother with gifts of clothing, yak-buttered tea, barley wine, meat and cheese, then the celebration begins.
3. Turkey: Drinking a traditional beverage
Turkish birth traditions are really unique. Do you know how new mothers celebrate the birth of their baby in Turkey? They drink a traditional beverage called lohusa serbeti, which is made with water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon and red food colouring. This drink is served to new mothers in the hospital itself following the birth of the baby. This drink is said to be good for free flowing of mother’s milk. Both the mother and the baby stay at home for a period of 20 days after the delivery and receive guests who also take a sip of the beverage.
4. Nigeria: Water, palm oil, kola nut for the baby
Nigeria has an interesting baby tradition. This custom is performed on the seventh day for a baby girl and the ninth day for a baby boy. The newborns are given drops of water (to have no enemies), palm oil (for a smooth, stress-free life), kola nut (for a long and healthy one) and salt and pepper (to keep things exciting and spicy). Also, the grandmother gives the first bath to the baby to symbolise the fact that mother will not be alone in taking care of the baby.
5. Bulgeria: Bad luck to praise the baby
Do you go ‘awww’ when you see a cute baby? Don’t if you are in Bulgaria! In almost all the cultures across the world, the newborn is complemented and praised for their physical appearance. Not in Bulgaria though! Bulgarians believe that it is bad luck to coo over a newborn as the devil will notice the praise and harm the object (the baby) of admiration. In fact, the parents go to great lengths to pretend the baby is ugly and downplay the physical features.
6. Ireland: Parent’s wedding cake sprinkled on the baby’s head
Ireland has a ‘sweet’ baby tradition, in the literal sense of the term! Couples preserve the top part of the good luck ‘fertility’ whiskey fruit cake of their wedding till the birth of their first child. At the christening of the baby, the crumbs from this top tier are sprinkled on the baby’s head in the belief that the baby will go on to have a long and healthy life.
7. Japan: Eating of red rice and read bean dish
Do you know that there is a crying contest for babies in Japan? The birth of a baby in a Japanese family is celebrated with a generous helping of red rice and red bean dish. The crying contests called Nakizumo are held in Japan to see which baby cries first. Japanese believe that babies who cry loud and often will grow much faster and lead a healthy life compared to other babies. After the birth of a baby, the new mother traditionally stays at her parent’s house for a month where she must rest in bed for 21 days to recuperate and bond with the baby.
8. Netherlands: Stuffed stork announces the birth of a baby
Do you know that mothers in Netherland prefer home birth to giving birth in hospitals? Netherlands takes the cake for the highest number of home births in the West! To announce the birth of a baby, parents place a stuffed stork in a window facing the street, so it looks like the stork just flew in make the delivery.
9. Brazil: Guests are given gifts after the birth of a baby
If you are in Brazil, you might get a gift for visiting a baby! In Brazil, when a baby is born and guests come to the hospital to greet the mother and the baby, they do not carry gifts for the newborn. Instead, they receive gifts that, in most cases, include a basket with candy and souvenirs and a thank you note. One of the rare countries where the guests are treated like a newborn mother.
10. Bali: Placenta is buried under ground
In the Hindu country of Bali, an important birthing tradition is followed, they bury the placenta that is believed to be a twin to the newborn. Yes, during an elaborate ceremony, family members clean the placenta, put it in a sealed container, wrap it with cloth and then proceed to bury outside the home.
Apart from that, they also treat the newborns royally and do not allow their feet to touch the ground for 210 days after birth. When the baby finally set its foot on the ground for the first time, the act symbolises crossing over to the earthly realm.
Fascinating birth traditions, isn’t it? The reasons behind these somewhat bizarre baby traditions followed across the world could be different in different cultures. Whether one wants to follow it or not depends on the individual. All said and done, these unique baby traditions have been followed since ages and all relate to a central theme – celebrate a baby’s birth.
About the Author:
Written by Ashwin Dewan on 23 January 2020.
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