The birth of a baby is an exciting time for people around the world, but every culture has its own ways of marking significant events in a child's life — for example, the first haircut or first birthday.
What every culture also has is its own superstitions and traditional beliefs about children — some that are still followed in the modern world.
Some of these superstitions are clearly based in past attempts to keep babies safe and healthy — for example, those around avoiding exposure to germs, or meant to explain different health issues. Others are more tied to religious traditions, or are designed to mark special events in a baby's life like the selection of a name.
And there are some that are so old, and so commonly followed, that we might not realize these days why they still hold — even if we still follow them just in case.
Here are superstitions and traditional beliefs about babies from eight different parts of the world — do you recognize any from your own life?
"In Russia it is believed that no one should take pictures of a baby until the baby is one month old," says author Milana Perepyolkina. It's feared that someone could look at the baby with an evil eye and make the child ill, but Perepyolkina says the superstition likely stems from the days when infant mortality was much higher.
"It is believed that babies with pictures taken before turning one month old are more likely to die," she says. "The contact with the baby is limited to the closest family during the first month. Taking a newborn baby to stores or inviting friends and extended family is feared."
Folklore about fairies — mischievous and mystical creatures that have survived through oral traditions — can mean bad news for babies.
As the stories go, fairies could swap a new baby for a changeling — a sickly-looking creature that is not quite human. Placing coins in a baby's carriage or bassinet was thought to offer protection. And people, including children, who were in some way seen as not the norm were often said to have been "touched by the fairies" by way of explanation.
Many Jewish families avoid the pre-baby rituals that are commonplace for some of us: no baby showers, no early nursery set-up, no online discussion of potential baby names.
This superstition is meant to avoid counting one's chickens before they hatch, and likely stems from times when infant deaths were much more likely.
It's believed that a new baby shouldn't see themselves in a mirror — though of course, newborns can't see that clearly anyway — until after the christening, says Caleb Backe, a wellness expert with Maple Holistics. "It's in order to keep his soul from being taken," Backe says. "This is still adhered to in many places, even outside Greece."
The tradition of waiting until after a baby's birth to pick a name holds for some Indian parents as well, says Supna Shah, a parenting expert who founded WeGo kids. "When we found out we were expecting triplets, one of the first questions that came to mind was 'How are we going to name them all?,'" Shah says.
When she asked family and friends for name ideas, she was warned against making choices until after the birth. "And as obedient soon-to-be-parents, we didn't want to do anything to jeopardize our children, even under the guise of a superstition," she says. "We took the lists of names and tucked them away until the day the triplets were born."
Thai people traditionally hold a lot of different superstitions, and one of them has to do with complimenting the looks of a newborn baby. It's believed that if you say that a newborn is cute, a ghost will come and take away the baby.
For that reason, Thai people may compliment a cute baby with the phrase "น่ารักน่าชัง nâa-rák nâa-chang," which means the baby is "adorable and unpleasant."
Japanese society has several traditional rituals designed to bring luck and happiness and good health to new babies.
Oshichiya, a ritual for the seventh night after a baby's birth, is the time for the official announcement of a new baby's name.
Omiyamairi is the child's first visit to a local shrine when they are one month old. And a big party is generally held for a baby's first birthday, where it's believed that if the child walks on their own carrying mochi (a Japanese rice cake) on their back they will be blessed.
Chinese women are encouraged to stay inside with their newborn babies for the first 30 days after birth. "Sitting the month" means spending those first weeks wearing pyjamas, resting, and recovering from childbirth.
This likely was designed to give mother and baby time to bond, establish nursing, and gain strength. The tradition is documented as far back as 2,000 years in Chinese society.
In the Polynesian islands, a child's first haircut is a significant event. Children sit on a special chair, are covered in quilts called tīvaevae, and are given money and gifts from community members as the hair is cut.
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