In Navajo culture, the first time a baby laughs is considered a significant event. It marks the child's transition from the spirit world to the physical world, apparently, and a party is held to celebrate. Should you find yourself on a Navajo reservation, make sure you’re not the one to make the baby laugh. You’ll be responsible for throwing the party and footing the bill.
In many Muslim cultures, a sheep is sacrificed and the baby’s head shaved on the seventh day of its life. The sacrifice is called 'aqiqah'. After the sacrifice, the baby's hair is shaved and weighed, with the weight of this hair in silver given to charity.
New mothers in China are expected to spend 30 days in confinement with their newborn child. She is not allowed to leave her home, nor is she allowed to eat raw fruit or take a shower. ‘Zuo yuezi’ or ‘sitting the month’ is deeply embedded in Chinese culture and is mentioned in the 2,000-year-old ‘I-ching’. However, many modern Chinese women struggle with the custom.
The Ibo people in West Africa believe that the placenta is the dead twin of the newborn and give it full burial rites, often under a tree.
The Kikuyu people in Kenya, on the other hand, bury the placenta in an uncultivated field and cover it with grain and grass.
In Bali, babies are not allowed to touch the ground for the first three months of their lives and must be held and carried at all times. It is believed that by not touching the ground, the baby’s connection with the spirit world is kept intact.
After three months, there is a Nyambutin ceremony at which the baby’s feet touch the earth for the first time.
In Bulgaria, it is considered bad luck to coo over a new baby. Apparently, the Devil steals the praise and harms the object of admiration. Instead, Bulgarians pretend the baby is ugly and tell it that they hope chickens poop on them. Sounds like fun.
The Japanese are very attached to the umbilical cord, so much so that they keep it in a box, a nice lacquer box. It's called a 'heso-no-o', or 'tail of the belly'.
They believe that the cord deserves to be honoured and saved for posterity because it is a link to one’s mother.
Like Chinese women, Indian women do not wash straight away. However on the fifth day after the birth, they take a bath in cow's urine and milk. Then they rest in a room prepared with fresh cow dung.
A popular Irish tradition is to use the parents' wedding cake to 'wet' the baby's head at its christening. The top tier of the good luck 'fertility' whiskey fruit cake is saved for the birth of the couple's first child. At the christening, crumbs are sprinkled on the child's head in celebration of a long life, while the rest of the tier is served to the guests.
In Vietnam, the mother-in-law moves in for the month and helps out. She also takes care of the special menu of stews and soups made from traditional Chinese medicinal 'heaty' ingredients like ginger and sesame oil.
After a baby is born in Tibet, two large banners are hung outside the house. One is to ward off evil and protect the child, the other to attract good fortune. The parents don’t start celebrating the birth until the third day of the child's life. Then friends and family drop by with gifts of clothing, yak-buttered tea, barley wine, meat and cheese to represent wishes for an abundant life.
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