Cultures around the world have long had a history of practising birth traditions and customs, and while each ritual may be different, they all celebrate the birth of a new baby in their own, special way.
Let’s begin by looking at Irish birth traditions, before taking a quick peak at some other countries around the world:
Crossing a new baby’s palm with silver has long been a tradition for citizens of Ireland and many parts of Great Britain, and a silver coin is placed in the baby’s hand to see if it will grab it with a closed fist, or drop it. The former was said to show that the baby would be frugal as an adult, while the latter indicated the opposite.
An earlier Irish tradition involved the top tier of the parent’s wedding cake (which was soaked in whiskey) being sprinkled over the baby’s head, while the rest was consumed by the adults.
During a popular and historical custom known as the ‘Sebou’, Egyptian family members come together to celebrate the baby. Newborns are placed in either a pink or blue carrier as per their gender, and after the banging of a pestle and mortar and the group reading of commandments, the carrier is passed around among those gathered.
When they are 8 days old, Latvian newborns are washed in a sauna bath filled with healing herbs and essences, and breast milk is massaged into the baby’s neck. After this tradition, Latvians believe the baby is clean and prepared for life.
With no painkillers, traditional Buddhist mothers in Japan give birth without the father being present in the room, and once the baby is born, the umbilical cord is preserved by the hospital, before being presented to the new mother in a presentation box.
New mothers in Brazil give gifts to visitors after the baby is born, such as sweets and trinkets, and the mother will typically receive several pairs of red booties from friends and family.
A stuffed stork was historically placed in a window facing the street when Norwegian parents wanted to announce the birth of a baby, and visitors received pink or blue biscuits as a gift.
In Nigeria, the paternal grandmother traditionally bathed the baby for the first time with palm oil and a natural sponge, to give it a good start to life. Then, the baby’s arms were bent backwards to ensure flexibility, and shockingly, the baby was then thrown into the air to check their reflexes!
Once a baby is 4 weeks old in China, the family gather to celebrate and extended family members are gifted red eggs to represent fertility and the circle of life. Once the baby is 100 days old, another celebration occurs in which the baby is dressed in red and passed around to family members and friends who give red envelopes containing money for the baby.
In a series of pre-birth rituals, the pregnant mother will select one chair from 3 to sit on, each of which conceals an item of cutlery. If she sits on a chair concealing a spoon, she’s going to have a girl; a knife means it’s a boy, and a fork means the gender is unknown.
Nowadays, baptisms and christenings are still popular traditions among Christian communities in Ireland, the UK and America, in which the infant is celebrated while dressed in a beautiful gown that can be handed down from generation to generation.
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