The Thai in the northern mountainous province of Son La organize a full-month celebration for a new-born baby with a simple ritual and minimal cost, but great cultural significance.
|The cradle that the paternal grandfather weaves for his grandchild.|
Customarily, the mother and her new-born baby sleep next to the wood stove in their stilt house for 5 to 10 days before moving to a bedroom.
The idea is to make sure they stay warm in the days following delivery, particularly in winter. Then, when the baby is one month old, the parents invite a shaman to conduct a full-month celebration.
80-year-old Tong Van Hia talked to us about this custom of the Thai people in Mong hamlet Hua.
"One month after a birth, we must organize a soul worship ceremony for the mother and child. We pray for the mother's health so she can continue to care for her baby. We pray that the baby will eat well and grow well. We make a carrier and cradle for the baby. We do all we can to ward off misfortune for the child," Hia said.
Before the ceremony, the maternal grandmother makes a baby carrier from indigo brocade fabric and embroiders colorful patterns on it.
|A carrier that the maternal grandmother makes for her grandchild.|
The maternal grandfather makes a bamboo cradle which is strong and spacious. The paternal grandfather weaves for the baby a little bamboo bottle called a Tay, which the Thai believe can hold a person's soul.
The Tay is hung on the wall and, from above, it protects the baby throughout its life. There are male and female bamboo bottles. The male bottles are attached to a miniature arrow, a bag, and a fan.
Counting the bottles near the ceiling of a Thai stilt house will tell you the number of members the household has.
Shaman Tong Thi Vinh in Mong hamlet explained the worship offering. "The offering should include clothing for the parents and the child, a chicken, eggs, fish, pork, betel leaves, areca nuts, incense sticks, a baby carrier, a cradle, and a Tay bamboo bottle. All these things are placed in the sleeping room. We believe the baby carrier and the cradle have souls that will protect the baby," Vinh said.
After the ritual, the mother carries her baby on her back, then places the baby in the cradle, which is hung by ropes from the overhead beams. The Tay bamboo bottle is hung on the wall, where it remains until the individual's death.
After all procedures have been completed, relatives and neighbors are invited to come enjoy a meal and welcome the baby.
Shaman Tong Thi Vinh said, "We pray for the mother and child's good health. We thank the cradle deity for putting the child to sleep and the carrier deity for holding the child securely. We pray for the child's protection as it grows, becomes capable of eating a chicken egg, and is carried on its mother's back to the field. I hang the Tay bamboo bottle on the wall. From above it will protect the baby throughout its life."
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