Ceremonies for Babies

Unlike the transitional observances above, those ceremonies performed for infants tend to be benign and are typically celebrated for both sexes. The ceremony may mark a physiological event such as the severing of the umbilical cord or the eruption of a first tooth. Or the ceremony may have a purely cultural definition such as naming (Alford, 1996). Although there are societies in which the individual may receive new names later in life, the choice of a baby's name is often a serious matter, which may be delayed for a month or longer and which may be a necessary step in making the baby a member of her group. Kilbride and Kilbride (1974) report that among the Baganda of East Africa, a ceremony is celebrated when the baby is 3-4 months old. She is seated on a mat with other babies to establish her legitimacy and in yet another seating ceremony, the baby is told,

"Now you are a woman." Diener (2000) reports that on the Island of Bali a baby's first birthday marks her "departure from the divine world and entry into the human world" (p. 112) by a ceremony which provides purification and spiritual strength. And among the traditional Walpiri Aborigines (Pierroutsakos, 2000), a betrothal was celebrated for infant girls (and even unborn girls)—a betrothal to the husband they would marry 9 or 10 years later.

One or more ceremonials for the infant appear to be celebrated in every society and yet these practices remain relatively unexplored cross-culturally. It seems likely that such rituals are related to a society's concepts of person-hood and the self, as well as to the meaning of gender and identity.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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