The birth of a child can be an auspicious and sacred time for a family. Beliefs and rituals surrounding this important rite of passage vary from culture to culture. For instance, Hopi tradition in North America holds that a baby’s true parents were the earth (as mother) and the corn plant (as father) with their human parents acting as surrogates who help to usher in the new life.
Religion has different birth-related rituals from religious and cultural traditions. Some are medically contested, but they nonetheless offer a glimpse into practices that religious communities have observed for centuries.
The Tradition of Shaving Baby’s Head
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There are many traditions associated with shaving baby’s head throughout the world
In India shaving baby’s head is considered auspicious. However, the procedure of shaving baby’s head should be carried out with utmost care and by a professional.
In Muslim and Hindu traditions, a baby’s head is typically shaved within several days or in the first three years after birth. In Islam, it is done to show that the child is a servant of Allah. In Hinduism, the ceremony, called a mundan, is believed to rid the baby of negativity from their past life and cleanse the child’s body and soul. Some Hindus in India take the baby’s hair to scatter in the holy river Ganges, while some Muslims weigh it and donate the equivalent weight in silver to charity.
Screaming infant’s head is cut by knife as part of bloody Islamic Ashura tradition
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Ashura commemorates the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson’s death is considered by Shi’a Muslims to vanquish their sins
This is the brutal moment a child’s forehead is cut as part of a religious tradition.
The Shi’a Muslim boy was slashed in the run-up to Ashura in Mumbai, India, and is considered by Shi’a Muslims to vanquish their sins.
Ashura commemorates the death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Husayn ibn Ali.
The Day of Ashura, which takes place on the tenth day of the Islamic calendar, has become a national holiday in many Muslim countries, involving most ethnic and religious communities in painful rituals using knives and chains.
Husayn ibn Ali, also known as Imam Hussain, died during the Battle of Karbala 1,300 years ago.
Shi’as across the many Middle Eastern countries are often covered in blood during the ceremonies as Muslims of all ages carry knives and slash each other.
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Baptisms, or rituals involving the literal or symbolic immersion in water, take place in several religious traditions and at different points in a person’s life. Baptism of infants is common practice in Catholicism and viewed as a way of cleansing the child of “original sin.” During the baptism, the priest pours water over the child’s head, or sprinkles a few drops on their forehead, while reciting the Trinitarian invocation, “I baptize you: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
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Male circumcision, called B’rit Milah in Judaism, is a ceremony and surgical operation in which the foreskin is removed from the penis of an 8-day old baby. Circumcision is also practiced in Islam and Christianity, though it is only considered a religious requirement in Judaism. The tradition stems from Genesis 17, in which God commands Abraham: “Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days, every male among you throughout the generations shall be circumcised, even the homeborn slave… An uncircumcised male… has broken My covenant.”
Source: Daily Mirror
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A controversial Jewish circumcision practice in which the blood of a baby’s cut penis is sucked by a religious leader has been condemned after the deaths of two infants.
The ‘metzitzah b’peh’ performed by ultra Orthodox Jews sees the eight-day old baby have a traditional circumcision but the ‘mohel’ then places his mouth around the wound and sucks up the blood.
But the practice – intended to prevent infection – has sparked controversy in recent years after the death of two infants and the cntraction of herpes in at least 11 others between November 2000 and December 2011.
Rabbi Moshe Tendler, professor of Talmudic Law and Bioethics at Yeshiva University, told KTLA that the practice was ‘primitive nonsense’.
‘The ritual has nothing to do with religion. It’s only their customs. But they’ve managed to convince the city that it’s a violation of their religious freedoms,’ he added.
Circumcision rituals originate from Scriptures, in which God tells Abraham that all men must be circumcised eight days after they are born.
Jews believed that blood was the ‘life-giving element’ and sucking it from the baby’s penis was initially thought to prevent infection.
Jeffrey Mazlin, a certified mohel and physician in New York who regularly practices circumcision procedures, said Orthodox Jews look view the religion as ‘more important than individuals’.
‘Because blood is the life-giving element, they believe that it’s supposed to be part of the whole procedure,’ he said, adding that there were ‘no known medical benefits’.
Medical advances over the last hundred years have made clear that it can actually spread diseases. It is practiced widely in Israel and among Hasidic Jews.
Source: Daily Mail
Baby throwing tradition in India
How far would you go to show your religious faith? Some families in rural India — both Hindus and Muslims — are willing to let their babies be tossed off the roof of a shrine, to be caught in a stretched bedsheet about 30 feet below.
The ritual, long popular in Maharashtra and Karnataka States, dates back almost 700 years, to a time when infant mortality was high, medical knowledge was scant and families had few places to turn for help.
Legend has it that a saint advised people whose babies were dying to build a shrine and drop the ailing infants from the roof to show their trust in the almighty. When they did so, the story goes, the babies were miraculously cradled to safety in a hammock-like sheet that appeared in midair.
From then on, prayers for the birth of a healthy baby in the region have included a promise to toss the baby as an offering to the god who granted the prayers. Villagers believe that the ritual brings the child long life and good luck, and maintain that it does no harm.
Officials say the practice is illegal under India’s children’s rights law, and the local police authorities in Solapur say they have not received any reports of baby-tossing since 2010. Even so, witnesses say it continues on a small scale in some villages, including in Mangasuli, where the Lord Khandoba, an avatar of Shiva, is worshiped by Hindus as the deity of the family.
“The practice continues throughout the year, and babies are tossed within two months of being born, come rain or shine — it’s tradition,” said Javed Fardin Akhtar, a resident of the nearby city of Sangli who said he witnessed the ritual in Mangasuli in April.
Mr. Akhtar said that the actual tossing was done not by the parents, but by experienced devotees of the shrine. After one bounce on the bedsheet, the babies are swiftly returned to the arms of parents waiting anxiously in the cheering crowd below.
Babies undergo ‘cruel’ baptisms by Orthodox Archbishop
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The most blatant and absurd error is that the cleric seen celebrating the Baptism in the pictures and video is not Patriarch Ilia. In fact, he is not even a bishop, but a simple priest, as is obvious by his vestments to anyone with any familiarity with the Orthodox Church. The patriarch is nowhere seen in the video or pictures. Despite this, the Daily Mail writes: “The Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, has been filmed roughly dunking tiny babies into a baptismal font, both legs-first and headfirst, in yesterday’s celebration of the Epiphany” (emphasis added).
Source: Daily Mail
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September 30, 2011, Georgian Orthodox Church priests baptise babies during a mass baptism ceremony at the Sameba Trinity cathedral in Tbilisi Source: telegraph.co.uk
Giving the baby a chilled bath
The extent to which mothers go to keep their newborns from rashes and stroke, in exceedingly hot countries like Guatemala, seems crazy. They actually shove the children into ‘icy cold water’ while the babies scream in pain. And after the torturous bath the infant immediately dozes off. However cruel and agonising it may sound but there are rumours from witness who claim to have seen Maya babies getting cured of heat rashes by following the above method.
Mauritian parents spit in their children faces
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In Mauritania – a country stretching across the African Saharan desert – there is a group of people called the Wolof people who have a strange belief that human saliva has the power to retain human words and feeling. Therefore we often find a newborn Wolof child being spitted on the face by women and in the ear by men and sometimes the saliva is – for the blessing to stick properly – rubbed all over the head. Again we have the Nigerian Igbo tribe going one step ahead when a baby is born. The parents take the child to their ancestral home accompanied by a relative who necessarily has be a good orator. This orator is the star of the show. He is allowed the privilege to chew on alligator pepper and insert the ensuing spit into the baby’s mouth on hopes of making the child grow up as good an orator as its donor.
Stimulating the genitals
Some cultural groups in Thailand & India have the strangest way of loving their newborn babies, that is, by stimulating their genitals. Yes, you heard that right. One minor ethnic group in China called the Manchu are known to show their affections to their infants by ‘tinkling the genitals of the girls’ and – you won’t believe this – giving fellatio ‘oral stimulation to the baby boys’ from their mother. Ironically, while these are not considered sexual activities but kissing is, among the Manchuians, forbidden due to its sexual connotations. So, Manchuian parents don’t kiss their children on their face.
Norwegians let their kids sleep outside subzero temperatures
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It is common for parents in Nordic countries to leave their toddlers in their strollers outside restaurants even on a cold winter day while they enjoy a hot drink or lunch inside. The freezing fresh air is believed to keep them fitter and more resistant to diseases.
Guatemala parents bathed their babies in icy water
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In Guatemala it’s common to see babies being bathed with cold water. Maya mothers commonly practice this bizarre ritual with the belief that it’s beneficial to the baby’s health. Bathing their babies with cold water is also an effective means to eliminate heat rash, and this custom helps babies sleep better. It might have a few health benefits, but it’s probably pretty unpleasant for the babies.
In India, babies are bathed with boiling milk to please the gods
Karaha Pujan is a bizarre tradition practiced in certain parts of India.Newborn babies are bathed with boiling milk, often by the father. The ritual is usually performed in Hindu temples and seen by many people. Throughout the ritual, Hindu priests known as purohit chant mantras. The milk is prepared by women who boil it in earthen pots. Once the milk has boiled, the father carries the baby, then puts his legs inside the pot of boiling milk and pours the hot milk onto the baby’s body. The ritual doesn’t end there — the father then pours the boiling milk on himself. According to its practitioners, this bizarre tradition is “meant to please the gods” so that the child could be blessed. The Indian government disagreed and banned this painful practice.
Forcing baby to cry
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In Japan, a festival called the Nakizumo is held every April in Tokyo’s Sonsoji Temple. During this festive celebration, a competition is held where babies are encouraged and even forced to cry. Parents who let their infants participate believe that forcing their babies to cry will make them healthy and will ward off evil spirits.
During the competition, the babies are given to two sumo wrestlers. The first wrestler who can make his baby cry wins. If the babies cry at the same time, the wrestler whose baby cried the loudest wins. A priest is also present during the competition — his role is to shout and wave so the cries of the babies reach heaven. Those who follow this ritual believe that the louder the cries are, the more blessed the babies will be.
Jumping over babies
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All parents want their babies to have a good life, but most wouldn’t risk the lives of their little ones to achieve that. But in the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia some parents allow their babies to be jumped over by a man in the belief that by doing so their young ones will be led “on a path to a good life.”
This tradition has been practiced since 1621. The man who jumps over the babies is called the El Colacho and he symbolizes the devil. By jumping over the babies, El Colacho drives the evil away from them. The participating babies are laid on a mattress which is placed in the town’s central square. El Colacho, who dresses in a yellow costume, then jumps over them. Surprisingly and thankfully, no injuries have ever been reported.
Place the baby in the large sieve and shake it to help the newborn accustomed to the Vagaries of life (Egypt)
In contemporary Egypt, survival and the number seven are inextricably linked. It’s on the seventh day that a child’s existence is formally acknowledged to the world in a naming ceremony known as Sebooh.
According to tradition, the mom places the baby –clothed in a white robe–in a large sieve and gently shakes it to help the newborn become accustomed to the vagaries of life. Next, the infant is laid on a blanket on the floor with a knife placed along his chest to ward off evil spirits, while the guests scatter grains, gold, and gifts around him. All are symbols of the plentiful abundance wished on the child. The mother side-steps seven times over the baby’s body, again to ward off evil spirits, while incantations are chanted by the attendants for the child to listen to what his mother says and always obey her.
A procession of lights and incense follows, with the new mother leading the the way. Singing children and guests follow bearing candles and incense to bless the house and its occupants.
In Sebooh, the child’s name can be chosen by lighting several candles, each of which is assigned a different name for the baby, at the onset of the ceremony. The candle which burns the longest will indicate the child’s name.
In Bali, babies can’t the the ground on three months
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In Bali, Indonesia, there’s a bizarre custom that prohibits babies from touching the ground for three months. The reason is that during the baby’s first months its connection to the “spirit” is still intact and letting it touch the ground would defile it. Many Balinese consider this ritual to be very sacred.
For three months, the baby is constantly held in someone’s arms — the father, mother, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and even neighbors. Basically, everyone in the village helps make sure the baby’s feet don’t touch the ground. After 105 days, a special ceremony called the Nyabutan is held where the baby touches Mother Earth for the first time.
Place a Baby on the Floor Surrounded by Symbolic Items to let the baby predict her/his future (Armenia)
In Armenia a bizarre ritual called the “Agra Hadig” is performed when a baby’s first tooth appears. The baby is placed on top of a table with various objects like a book, a knife, scissors, and more. It’s believed that the first object the baby touches will foretell its future career. For example, if the baby touches the knife then they might become a doctor. If they touches a book they become a priest or a pastor, while if they touch money they’ll become a banker.
To further complicate matters, if the Agra Hadig is performed in the afternoon only women are allowed to participate and only sweet foods are served. On the other hand, if it’s performed in the evening then men can participate and a full buffet dinner is served.
Lithuanian parents race their babies
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Every year, Lithuanian babies are entered into a race to find the fastest crawler in the country. More often than not, the competition is hilarious, as the babies have no idea what they’re doing, but the winners are celebrated as champion crawlers. The races are sponsored and attract massive crowds every year, as the competition always takes place on June 1, International Child Protection Day.
Every newborn gets a “Maternity package” from the government (Finland)
There’s a saying that “every baby comes with a loaf of bread under his arm.” Well, in Finland babies come with a box!
For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s a starter kit of clothes, sheets, and toys that can even be used as a bed.
Mothers have a choice between taking the box or a cash grant, which is currently set at 140 euros (US$190), but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.
Originally created for families on a low income, the maternity package became available to all parents in 1949. Since then, it’s been a staple of new parenthood and a sign that no matter what their background, all Finnish babies will get an equal start to life.
Put money in the baby’s hand in order to bring prosperity to the new born ( Trinidad and Tobago)
In Trinidad and Tobago when people visit newborn babies, they usually put money in the baby’s hand in order to bring prosperity and good blessings to the newborn.
Another custom from this country is that some parents do not allow people to come into their house after 6pm, since it is believed the evening dew will make the baby sick.