CLOSE
Original image
Getty

7 Parenting Superstitions From Around the World

Original image
Getty

Raising children is confusing and stressful, which is why new parents rely on traditional wisdom and the experiences of others to help guide their decisions. But what one person considers traditional knowledge, another may interpret as bizarre or irrational. In psychology, this phenomenon is called magical thinking. Or, more commonly—superstitions.

When it comes to children, superstitions arise out of a need to exert control over the randomness of life and the difficulty of parenting. Parents act on superstitions to protect their offspring from the dangerous, unpredictable outside world. But how real or superstitious a certain custom seems depends on personal belief. Distinct cultural lenses are necessary to focus the blurry line between superstition and age-old wisdom, as is the knowledge that many of these traditions were born in times of high infant mortality and provided much-needed comfort. Read on to learn about some of the most unique ways parents around the world use superstitions.

1. SUMO WRESTLERS AND CRYING INFANTS // JAPAN

Getty

For 400 years, bringing babies to tears at the hands of sumo wrestlers has been a tradition carried out during Tokyo’s annual Nakizumo Festival. During the event, two sumo wrestlers stand in a ring while trying to make the baby they each hold cry. If the babies don’t cry, a referee will don a terrifying mask to help bring the babies to tears. There is a saying in Japan that says "Naku ko wa sodatsu," which translates to "crying babies grow fastest." The proverb harkens back to a traditional belief that a baby’s cry can ward off demons and promote the healthy growth of the child.

2. FLYING INFANTS // INDIA

In a few remote villages in the eastern Indian provinces of Maharashtra and Karnataka, a reportedly 700-year-old superstition continues to draw the ire of outsiders. Babies under the age of 2 (although some reports claim most of the infants are less than 2 months old) are dropped from the top of Muslim mosques and Hindu temples. The infants are dropped on their backs from dizzying heights upwards of 50 feet and caught by a group of men who break the fall with a blanket. Though widely condemned (and although most Indians don't even know the custom exists) and illegal under Indian law, some villagers gather to watch the (extremely uncommon) event and participating parents believe that it will bring their children good health, strength, and long life.

3. POST-BIRTH NAMING CEREMONY // EGYPT

Seven days after a baby is born, Egyptian families hold a gathering called the Sebou, which is like a post-birth baby shower. The Sebou is a rite of passage and the first ceremonial acknowledgment of a newborn; to celebrate a birth before the seven days is considered bad luck. Traditional Sebous involve scaring the baby with loud noises, like banging a mortar and pestle, to teach courage. At some ceremonies, the baby is placed on a sieve with a knife on their chest to keep away evil while the mother hops back and forth seven times over her newborn. Guests sprinkle salt around the home and on the mother to guard against the evil eye. After that, guests place grains and gold around the baby; other common gifts include religious verses written on prayer rolls and turquoise stones for luck.

4. DEVIL JUMPING // CASTRILLO DE MURCIA, SPAIN

Getty

The devil comes to the streets of Castrillo de Murcia, Spain each June to steal original sin from infants. During the celebration a man playing the character of el Colacho parades around the streets dressed in the garb of the devil. At the end of the multi-day festival, parents lay their babies down on mattresses in the street, and as el Colacho flees the town, he jumps over the hordes of infants. When he leaps over the babies, it is believed the devil soaks in the sin babies were born with and takes it with him. Catholics believe that all humans are born with sin, and this ceremony protects infants from their inherent wickedness.

5. STAY OFF THE GROUND // BALI, INDONESIA

On the largely Hindu island of Bali, after a child is born the placenta is buried in a special location and the cord cutting is delayed. But just as importantly, babies aren't allowed to touch the ground. After 105 days have passed, families celebrate by throwing Penyambutan, when the baby's feet get to touch soil for the first time, and it is during this celebration that the baby is given a name. A priest comes to the celebration where he blesses the family and the baby and helps as the family gives offerings to various Hindu gods.

6. CALLING BABIES UGLY // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Westerners love to ooh and aah over babies, but in other places, admirers are purposely less enthusiastic. In Bulgaria it is believed that if a child is praised the devil will become jealous, so adults (generally) pretend to spit on babies while saying things like "May the chickens poop on you." In other cultures, including in Greece, Romania, and India, it is customary to spit on or near a baby that has been complimented to ward off the evil eye. In Vietnam, there is a superstition that calling a baby "cute" will make the baby turn ugly. Among families who want to keep away evil spirits, they will affectionately coo, "You’re such an ugly baby." Variations on this belief include Thailand, where ghosts will steal sweet-looking babies, and China, where superstitions say that praising a newborn will bring on evil spirits.

7. NEONATAL BABY TEETH // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

Not all superstitions are actions that people carry out; some are based on biological functions that no one can control. Natal and neonatal teeth are baby teeth that appear either in the womb or in the first month after birth. They have long been associated with superstitions around the world. Malaysian families have associated them with good luck. Nearby in China, the opposite is believed, with some communities going as far as considering babies with them monsters and demanding the removal of the teeth. There have been multiple accounts of isolated villages in parts of Africa where infants with neonatal or natal teeth have been killed or abandoned. In parts of Europe, it was believed babies with these early teeth would become great leaders—or potentially a vampire. And of course, the superstitions around losing baby teeth later on are just as old and widespread.

Original image
iStock
arrow
This Just In
'Super Producer' Donates Gallons of Her Breast Milk to Feed Other Kids
Original image
iStock

Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra makes much, much more breast milk than your average mother. So the Beaverton, Oregon, resident has become a major donor to milk banks, giving her milk away to babies in need all over the country, according to Portland ABC affiliate KATU.

Anderson-Sierra has what’s called Hyper Lactation Syndrome, meaning that her body produces far more than her 6-month-old baby can use. Most nursing mothers produce in the range of 15 to 30 ounces of breast milk a day, but she produces around 225 ounces (1.7 gallons). That's a lot of extra milk.

For many mothers, Hyper Lactation Syndrome is a major problem, not an opportunity for charity. It makes most women’s breasts feel overfull all the time, and can lead to plugged ducts and leaking between feedings. It can also cause issues for nursing babies, who can develop colic. Pumping more isn’t usually the answer—that tells the body that the milk is being used, and to produce more—but Anderson-Sierra seems to see her overproduction as the solution to a problem, rather than a problem in itself.

“Breast milk is liquid gold,” she told KATU. “It should never be thrown away.” (It is, in fact, a miraculously versatile fluid, and the recommended food source for babies under 6 months old.) Anderson-Sierra has two full-sized freezers stacked with bags and bags of breast milk in her Oregon home. She donates them to a milk bank that tests her milk and sends it out nationwide, including for use in feeding premature babies in hospitals. The bank reimburses her a dollar an ounce, which she uses to pay for her freezers and to buy more bags and sanitation kits.

Anderson-Sierra spends hours out of her day pumping breast milk, which sounds utterly exhausting. Those preemies in the NICU are grateful for her time, surely. It's a lot more generous than most of us would be with our bodies.

[h/t KATU]

Original image
Courtesy Cleveland Clinic
arrow
This Just In
This 90-Year-Old Has Knitted More Than 2000 Hats for Newborn Babies
Original image
Courtesy Cleveland Clinic

Since 2009, 90-year-old Barbara Lowe has been a fixture at Hillcrest Hospital outside Cleveland, but she's not a patient. Almost a decade ago, the Mayfield Heights, Ohio, resident took it upon herself to begin knitting tiny hats for newborn babies delivered at Hillcrest, and has now delivered 2252 hats and counting, according to ABC News.

Lowe lives in a senior living complex across the street from the hospital, so it was an easy jump to go from whipping up hats for the children of her family and friends to delivering teeny headgear to the maternity ward.

Seven pastel knit caps lie on a wooden table.
Courtesy Cleveland Clinic

Using fine baby yarns, Lowe makes ribbed hats with a brim and a detachable flower, spending around four hours on each one. They come in a variety of pastel colors. Lowe is known around town for her work with the hospital, and the manager at the Michaels store she buys her supplies from gives her a discount on the yarn she uses for hospital caps.

"It's my therapy," Lowe told ABC News. "When you're 90, you've got aches and pains. You don't want to think about it. Well, you're not thinking about it if you're concentrating on what you're doing."

Lowe learned to crochet and sew as a child, and later taught herself to knit. She considers it a "dream" to be able to give back to her community by gifting the hats to new parents and their bundles of warm-headed joy. According to the hospital, the hats do more than just keep babies toasty after their first bath—they provide a teaching opportunity to help new parents learn how to keep their babies feeling warm, as a hospital official told Cleveland.com.

[h/t ABC News]

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios