Source Edited by me on Canva
A baby is a blessing from God, Welcoming a baby into this world is like welcoming God and his gift. There are many who long for a child for years and years. When that blessing comes it is time to thank God and celebrate His gift. Here, I will describe the traditions of an Indian catholic family.
Source Edited by me on Canva
The Good News
An annoying thing about the Indian culture is that people start asking you if you have any good news from the time you get married till you declare the good news. While it is embarrassing for the couple in question, it is normal social talk for others. LOL I am not kidding, believe me.
The conformation of pregnancy is the start of celebrations, but in a quiet sort of way within the family. The family doesn't leak out the news until the first trimester is over. It is then believed that the unsafe period is over and the news can be spread among the near and the dear ones.
Uncles and aunts start visiting the woman and giving her gifts. Sweet smelling flowers are gifted to her and she is expected to wear them in her hair. The sweet natural fragrances are supposed to cheer the lady and keep her happy and smiling.
Gifts of Significance
Gifts of bangles, gold, silver and glass are presented to the woman by everyone who brings gifts depending on their financial ability. The tinkling noises of the bangles on the pregnant woman's wrists are the first rattles the baby hears. The mother's constantly moving hands are supposed to keep her and her unborn child cheerful. Glass bangles are special since they make a lot of cheerful noise.
The Baby shower
In the seventh month of pregnancy there is a formal baby shower. The pregnant lady is gifted with silk sarees, ornaments of gold, loads of glass bangles and flowers. Jasmines and roses are the favorites for this celebration. Sometimes people go into the jungles to get a cactus flower which is so sweet smelling that it a single petal would fill the house with it sweet fragrance. These used to be sold in the flower markets in summer. I am not sure if these are still available in the market these days.
This is also the time when the woman is taken from the husbands home to her maternal home where she gives birth to her baby. The seventh month is chosen because it is safer for the woman to travel long distances and also to ensure proper prenatal care at home and with a gynecologist until the birth of the child.
The birth of the child is usually at the hospital so there is no fanfare. Guests are allowed to visit the mom and the baby after a few days to prevent stress and infections for the mother and child.
Dedication and Baptism
The naming ceremony is done with a lot of fanfare. All relatives and friends are invited and (according to the catholic tradition I was brought up in) the baptism is given in the church. The name is usually chosen based on three considerations. The saint of the day on which the child was born, the name of (usually) the paternal grandfather if the baby is a boy or a paternal grandmother if the baby is a girl (most families insist on this) The last consideration is the desire of the parents, you read that right, parents come last.
I did not follow this tradition, I named my boys after great deliberation with my husband, we had been praying for months about naming our children and we chose their names even before they were born.
The main purpose of the celebration is thanksgiving and dedication of the child to God in front of the congregation. This is traditionally done on the fortieth day or the days around it. God parents are chosen based on their commitment to God. However, it is a tradition for paternal uncles or aunts to be chosen as the God parent for the first child. These people are expected to train the child or at least aid the parents in bringing up the child in a Godly way.
This church ceremony is followed by a feast. The best of food and music is organized with party and games. Since we don't drink alcoholic beverages we don't serve them at these parties, but most families do. Each person/family brings gifts for the baby, these gifts usually take care of the dress, toiletries, toys and needs of the baby during the first 3-4 months.
Money is spent lavishly by the parents of the woman delivering the baby during this ceremony. They also gift the baby and the mother with gold ornaments during these festivities. It is a tradition to show how precious the baby is to the family and how they warmly welcome him/her into the family. Indian marriages and celebration are expensive affairs, parents gear up for these moments by saving money for these events from the time a daughter is born. I am serious.
While it looks lavish and happy some for some families it is a huge financial burden. Most often the medical insurance that companies (where the parents of the baby work) insist on takes care of the medical expenses. Yet, for the grandparents having to gift ornaments could get them into financial trouble.
This is how a child is welcomed into a Christian family in India. Some of these tradition come from the family's former religions (usually Hinduism), but most are altered to suit the Christian beliefs.