In many cultures around the world to a new Childs birth is celebrated after the first month from the day of birth. Celebrations conducted earlier than that are considered to be bad luck. This belief was also share by a host of other traditional cultures such as Judaism. The cultural believes embraced by these cultures were highly superstitious and had not reality in relation to the kind of life in the society. In this essay I am going to present the Culture beliefs and practices of birth system in Chinese and Hindu society. In these societies people have remained faithful to their old rituals despite the upsurge of modernity. This sticking to the traditional is mainly due to the belief or faith attached too the rituals or the doubt individual have towards modernity.
First the Chinese families find the ritual important for survival of the child and protection of the fragile mother. Children who survive at child birth spend the first month of their lives building up immunity. The mother and her child take rest; she is discouraged from doing any work including house work (Baker). She takes various herbal drinks or fluids and specific foods such as the pig feet to cleanse her body and recollect the energy that she lost during pregnancy and child birth.
Parents also believe that the rituals protect the baby from evil forces. It is bathed until the third day and clothed in protective cloths meant to keep at bay any demons that may be interested in stealing it. The special cloths used may vary from special hats to special blankets that are over decorated have a lot of jewelry. A whole range of things can be used for this can be used for this decoration provided they can hide, distract or get the demons attention way from the child. This period is normally referred to as “doing the month.”
Parents also engage in these practices because they are thought to bring luck in the child’s future (Beng). The baby’s survival of the first month is a good indication that the baby will survive to maturity. With the surety of the survival of the baby, the baby’s family makes preparations for celebrations. A big party held to celebrate the presence of the newborn in the society. The celebration is conducted in the same fashion as most of the Chinese partied; banquet celebration. The guests who attend come with money in red envelops as the tokens for good luck. In Chinese big parties red color is very significant since it is associated with prosperity and good luck. It is during this part that other family member especially those of the extended family get to see the baby (Baker). The mother prays to specific deities to make their children successful, obedient and so on.
Mistrust of modern medicine also encourages the Chinese to stick to their rituals. Most families are at cross road whether to adopt new practices or keep their traditional practices (Raven et al, 1472). Most choose to take up the traditional rituals as advised by their parents and older member of the society at the expense of the advice given by physicians in hospitals. Also most of the Chinese families including those in Diasporas do not have a proper understanding of modern medicine which is foreign to them. They thus prefer keeping their ritual that they are well accustomed to and feel safe with.
The Chinese believe that the practices are essential for the safety of the child and the unborn child. Praying to the gods enlists their mercy and protection. It also ensures that the mother has positive thoughts. According to Raven et al (1478) the practices are believed to help expectant mothers to get what they want for instance a mother can get a baby boy, a beautiful baby, an obedient child e.t .c. by praying to specific deities. New born babies are undertaken through ritual after the first month of birth to be prayed for to bring honor to their families in future.
The Hindu society like the Chinese has ritual conducted during pregnancy, child birth and initiations. Some of the rituals require the presence of a priest while some don’t. There are several officials who can substitute the priests perfectly and variation can be made on the rights to make them administrable in the absence of a priest.
Safety and a good future for the child is a factor that greatly influence the practice of the rituals be Indian families. At conception the samskar is performed. A scripture-based right called “Garbhadana” can also be performed in the place of the samskar. The two are ceremonies designed to celebrate conception. A prayer is conducted with the hope that the child who will be bourn will fulfill its parent obligation by ensuring the continuity of the human race. The samskar is also performed for the protection of the fetus. This is called the “Punsavana.” The ceremony is performed at the fourth or the fifth month of the pregnancy. It is believed that the ceremony invokes qualities of the divine nature in the child and ensures that the child born is a male child.
Mothers conduct these rituals for their own safety. There are other several ceremonies and rituals that are performed during pregnancy to ensure that the health of the expectant mother and that of the unborn child are in proper condition. The father to the developing child can part the mother hair backward and upwards three times to signify the maturation of the embryo. The ceremony is referred to as Simantonnayana and is he conducted between the fourth and the seventh months of the pregnancy. The combing of the hair by the husband indicates the love that the husband feels for his wife. In addition to these various charms can be administered to keep at bay evil eye, demons and witches (Das).
On the seventh month of the pregnancy, the Seemantham ceremony is held. The ceremony can be equated to the baby shower. It is orchestrated by the family member and it involves religious ritual and giving of gifts. To sooth the pregnant mother a prayer to the fire is recited. Also, light instrumental music believe to be helpful to the development of the child’s ears is normally played during these ceremony.
When the child is born the father touches the mouth of the babe using a gold ring spoon which has been immersed in honey, ghee and curds. This is done before the severing of the umbilical cord. According to Das during this ritual, the work “vak” which means speech is whispered into the right ear three times and also mantras are chanted to ensure the new born lives a long life. This ritual is referred to as “Jatakaema.” The mantra repeated to the born child also seeks to ensure the child lives a peaceful life and the talent of the child is also generated. The feeding of honey or ghee is the way father welcome their new born babies into the world in accordance to the Hindu culture (Das).
Rituals are practices to socialize the child into the community and mark every development stage. “Namakarana,” or the naming is conducted between the tenth and the fourteenth day of life. This ceremony signifies the entrance of the child into his or her Hinduism sect. The names given to children this stage are given according to the astrology. In most cases learned people are normally consulted in selecting the names for children. Many families prefer the names of gods and goddesses. The naming of children these names is a tradition valued by the Hindus is believed to be a special blessing since such naming adds to ones household the benefit or remembering or acknowledging the deity every time the child name I called. The start of taking solid food is also marked by celebrations or the samsker of “Anna-preshana.” When the child has attained this age he or she starts taking solid food by being given his or her first feeding with the food that has previously been consecrated by offering it as an offertory to the deities. In most cases the first solid food that children are fed on is rice.
There are a host of other rituals designed for the child while the baby is still an infant. These rituals include the “visit outside the temple,” and “the first hair cut,” characterized by the shaving of the head, and the ear-piercing ceremony (Das). The shaving hair must be conducted in the temple. It can also be conducted during festivals when the hair can be sent to a deity. Many Hindus still cultivate and engage in these practices. A few especially those who changed religion from Hinduism do not observe the practices (Bhalla, 128).
The Chinese and Hindu culture have some similarities in terms child birth since they are all packed with ritual and ceremonies accompanying pregnancy, child birth and the Childs infancy. The ceremonies and ritual are however different with each culture have it is own set of unique traditions, practices, beliefs symbols and superstations. The whole ranges of activities surrounding the child birth indicate that these cultures value their new born and mother.