Very few things in life are as special and memorable as the birth of a baby. No matter what part of the world she comes from or what her socio-economic background is, a mother will always be able to fondly recall even the tiniest of details about bringing her newborn into this world.
What remains different are the customs and rituals that go into the undertaking of this important life event that are personal to every culture from around this world. Here’s looking at some of the most interesting ones.
Togo is a country in West Africa, where a well-known superstition declares that women in labor should keep the noise around them at a minimum. Why? Because they believe that loud noises attract evil spirits. For this reason, laboring women are also encouraged to stay as quiet as possible while giving birth.
In Morocco, laboring women are required to sit patiently for long hours at a stretch while Henna is applied in intricate patterns on their bodies. This practice is supposed to encourage pregnant women to rest and relax.
Henna is a native shrub of the Mediterranean, popularly known for its hair conditioning and dyeing properties. It is believed to have healing properties when applied on the body and can even protect the mother and her baby from illnesses. The application of Henna is also believed to fight off the ‘evil’ eye and bring joy and prosperity to the woman and her family.
Jamaicans save the placenta and umbilical cord of a baby after it’s freshly out of a woman’s womb. A special location is then selected where these are buried deep into the ground. A tree brought by close friends or family members is planted in this spot. As the baby grows up, this young tree is placed under the child’s care, by virtue of which, it teaches the child about the importance of life and responsibility.
4. Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptians believe that menstrual blood is a good medicine. Therefore, after the birth of a baby, menstrual blood would be rubbed into the skin of the child to ward off evil spirits.
The Chinese have a long list of customs that need to be followed by a woman in labor. They believe that a pregnant woman should avoid looking at, let alone eat foods that have contrasting colors. This is to prevent the baby being born with a dark skin tone since the Chinese associate light skin complexions with wealth and prosperity.
Expecting mothers are also advised against sitting on crooked mats to lower risks of fetal deformations. Some Chinese women are also made to avoid funerals and are encouraged to sleep with a knife or a dagger under their pillows at night to fend off evil spirits.
Bihar, a state in India, believes that drinking water will help ease the process of a particularly difficult labor. The woman in labor is made to drink not cold, refreshing water – but a glass of water in which her mother-in-law has dipped and washed her toe.
The Kanash people from Pakistan have been taught to believe that women in labor are unclean and not to be touched. Therefore, pregnant mothers are sent away from their home a few days before the birth of the baby is expected to occur. During this time, they live in a small hut decorated with various intricate paintings of animals termed as ‘Bashleni’. Since menstruating women are also considered unclean, only they are allowed to visit the Bashleni and assist the pregnant woman during the birthing process.
According to Turkish tradition, a mother is expected to stay in bed with her newborn for the first 20 days. During this time, she is visited by close friends and relatives who prepare and serve her a drink made of sugar, cloves, cinnamon, a red colored food dye, and water called ‘Lohusa Serbeti.’ The new mother is encouraged to drink this so as to encourage a healthy flow of breast milk for her baby. The family also accompanies her in drinking this special preparation.
New Turkish mothers are also given a single egg wrapped that comes wrapped in a handkerchief for a healthy baby. They are also showered with candy as it is believed to encourage the baby to grow into a good-hearted, sweet-natured child. Some Turkish families also rub flour into a newborn baby’s eyebrows and hairline – this is believed to grant the child a long, healthy life.