Interesting Parenting Traditions from Different Cultures
By Amy Turn Sharp of Doobleh-vay
Traditions in families can be so powerful for both parents and children as we strive to make beautiful deliberate motions that string together our days and give memories that last our whole lives.
Parents everywhere choose tradition to enrich their family’s lives. We find the ceremony of everyday through religious and cultural traditions. Ritual binds us together as parents and makes us keenly aware that we are all more alike than different.
Here are some interesting parenting traditions from around the world:
Pacifier Tree Tradition
Well, parents all over the world have there own sneaky ways to get wee ones to relinquish.
Photo by cesarastudillo
My favorite was in Denmark where at a children’s park there are trees where kiddos can hang their pacifiers from branches as a ceremonial way to say goodbye. Who are we kidding; the parents totally love it too. It looks like a wonderland of color and delight. I would want to decorate that tree too if I were a kid with a paci.
Tooth Fairy Traditions
When your wee babes are just cutting teeth it is hard to imagine that they will ever be so big that their baby teeth will fall out. The tooth fairy is such a sweet myth that we spin and simple really when you think about it, but in other cultures some kids throw their teeth on the roof of the house instead. In countries like India, Korea, and Vietnam as the tooth is thrown, the child wishes for the launched tooth to become the tooth of a mouse, as rodent teeth grow for their whole life.
Baby’s 100 Day Celebration
Chinese families have a very lovely tradition called the 100 days ceremony where they celebrate the first 100 days of a child’s life. I suspect this roots in the issue of infant mortality rates and is meant even today to give thanks for the safe keeping of a child.
Baby’s First Birthday
The Chinese child’s first birthday is also celebrated with a large feast and offerings to the gods and goddesses. Parents give the baby a basket with assorted items such toys, pens, books, food, and tools. The tradition says that the item for which the baby reaches will have some bearing on his/her future.
Birthday Cake depicting Boy in Ceremonial Korean Birthday Dress by Cake Girl by Hyeyoung Kim
This “baby grab” tradition is also celebrated in Korea. It is like a cool fortune telling game for the little one!
Greek families also have a wonderful tradition surrounding birthdays in which they also have name day rituals. Name days celebrate the day of the saint that bears the same name as you. It is a traditional feast day, but in contemporary times more like a small party and ritual. The person is treated special, but the saint is also treated with festivals or lighting of candles in churches. How lucky to have two days a year to celebrate like this?
First Day of School
On the first day of school, German kids receive large paper cones called Schultute filled with school supplies and treats. It is like getting a Christmas stocking on the first day of school! How fun!
In Russia children ring bells called “First bells” on the first day of school! I got brand new Sears corduroys. How about you?
Coming of Age Traditions
The Navajo Indians have a celebration called kinaalda. Girls run footraces and compete in trials to show power and strength in womanhood. The girls who experience their first menstruation wear special clothes and style their hair like the Navajo goddess “Changing Woman.”
The story of the Changing Woman is beautiful. Her power grants longevity. Even as she ages she is able to recapture her youth by walking towards the east and turning around counterclockwise four times. As the Apache say, “Changing Woman never died and she will always live.”
Sadly my mom only bought me a 1980’s book entitled Period and took me to the mall. I love the thought of giving more to this momentous time in life.
Photo by chanchan222
To Native American groups, aVision Quest is a turning point in life taken before puberty to find oneself. Vision quests are gaining popularity with young people and parents as a tool to discuss puberty and bonding. Parent and child may take a camping trip or go rock climbing or partake in another activity that pushes them physically or mentally. Parents relinquish some control as they witness their young adult start to trust and grow.
Potty Training Traditions
In India and Africa it is not strange or uncommon to potty train very young infants. It is a way of life to be diaper free using timing, signals, cues, and mothering intuition. It has been given a fancy name her in the US recently, Elimination Communication, and is still kind of looked at as a strange and foreign concept to most. But since the dawn of time, parents have had to hold their infants away from their bodies to allow the baby to “go” and cloth diapering was at first just simply a leaf or other vegetation, I am sure.
What do you think about holding your wee babe over the potty many times a day and training them? How different is it than living in a jungle or desert environment and spending the majority of your time out side carrying your child against your body? Do you find it odd? Would you try it?
Traditions and rituals you can do with your own family:
I have been loving a book I bought secondhand a couple years back called The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox.
It is tops and has a ton of fabulous ideas for starting your own traditions and rituals.
Some of my favorites are simple things from the book:
* A father makes a bottle of monster spray for his son. (Water and a spray bottle) It is solace for the son in the night alone.
* I love the family that makes threshold sheets for each birthday, they take a white bed sheet and draw and write all of the child’s accomplishments for the year and hang it so they must cross under it on their birthday morning.
* Another mom “kidnaps” her kids from school once a year and lets them plan the whole day off work and school.
* A family in the book has a reading dinner once a month where everyone can read at the dinner table!
What will you pass on to your family? Do you know any cool international parenting traditions? Please share!
Published March 23, 2009. Last updated June 28, 2018.