Birth Customs of the Hani


When the child is born the person helping the mother will not pick it up until it has cried three times, the first for a life span, the second for the whole village and the third as a request of help. The helper must give a temporary name to the baby the moment she picks it up, otherwise spirits will name the child and take it away (will have a short life span). This is because a legend of a tiger taking off unnamed infants.

After the delivery of the baby the helper ties the umbilical cord with a white string and cut it with a pair of scissors, washes the baby and wraps him in cloth. After the placenta is delivered, it will be buried in a hole inside the house. Many Hani feel they can not live far from their home, the place where their placenta is buried.

The official name will be given three days later. The family kills a chicken and offers it to the ancestors. Then the respected elders will discuss the official name. Only one syllable is chosen, since the first syllable will be the second syllable of the father's name. Then the oldest person holds a cup of liquor and name the child, blessing him immediately:

"Grow up big. Grow up happily. Be healthy… May you have many domestic animals. May your crops be good… May the great ancestor Taoqpaoq protect you."

During the following weeks the mother will breastfeed her baby before she eat. When the child is about four or five months old both the mother and father begin to chew some solid food and feed that to the child; different foods according to the sex, game to the boys in the hope that they will become great hunters and fish to the girls in the hope that they become experts at fishing.

After two months almost isolated, feed with a lot of eggs, the mother will resume her life. During some weeks more she would avoid touching cold water or the sun shining on her face and must wear the full Hani outfit with turban.

This information is based on Paul W. Lewis and Bai Bibo Hani Cultural Themes. White Lotus. Bangkok. 2002. (Chapter 5. Birth Customs)

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