As I worked in the field of obstetrics in Syria for a long period of my life and as a mother of six children, I would like to talk about the ceremony of welcoming the new-born in my country so you could learn about our culture.
Receiving a new-born is one of the cheerful occasions that brings joy and happiness into the hearts of parents and their neighbours and friends, and it is the opportunity to welcome a new life into the world. There are social customs and traditions that differ from one city to another, it also differs between cities and rural areas. Some of them have reduced or disappeared and are swapped for a modern and secular version. However, there are customs that have not disappeared due to their religious holiness.
Preparation for the arrival of the new-born begins in the first months of pregnancy. Where the mother receives special care from her husband and her family by taking care of her healthy food and keeping her away from all strenuous activities. Then they begin to prepare the new-born’s clothes (complete set of clothes). They are bought from the market, whilst some of them are knitted by the relatives. Moreover, they also start decorating and preparing the new-born baby’s room by buying a cot, wardrobe etc.
Then comes the moment of the arrival of the new-born. Where he is bathed and then handed to his father who will say the Azan (holy words in Arabic in his ears so that the first word the baby hears is God, the one who created him. The father prays for him.
In the countryside a feast is held, inviting relatives and neighbours and they use Kohl which is a black powder used in the eyes as a make-up. They also massage his body with warm olive oil.
As soon as the news spread and the mother recovered and returned home, her close relatives come and check on her health carrying gifts for the mother and for the baby. The gift of the baby is a piece of gold inscribed with a verse of noble Qur’an or money.
On the seventh day:
The baby is called the best name given by his parent and it must have meaning because the name is inherent to him throughout his life, so the meaning of his name could motivate him to follow it. For example, the meaning of name “Ahmad “is the one who thanks Allah and has the best manners.
The baby’s hair is shaved, and the parents donate money with the weight of the baby’s hair and is given to the needy people.
Aqiqah, which is to sacrifice a sheep on behalf of the baby, and this is an expression of gratitude to God for the blessing of having a baby. Part of Aqiqah is made to be a feast for relatives and some parts are sent to the poor people.
Circumcision (cut off the foreskin from the penis is compulsory for a baby boy. It is beneficial because it decreases the risk of urinary tract infection and for other reasons. Then the family arranges a party and invites relatives and friends. They serve a warm drink called “Almaghli“ which is boiled water with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. They are poured in special cups with nuts such as almonds, pistachio, and coconut on top. They also give out sweets which are shaped like a baby and gifts to those who come to the party.
I have come to realize, that babies bring happiness and joy into the world and helps those around them to come together and bond. And how many wonderful memories there are for this welcoming event.
By Asmahan Al-Atrash