There are many traditions around the world that are interesting and fun, but there are also those that are downright bizarre and even a little cruel. You’d think customs involving babies would be the former, but we’ve found 10 particularly weird kinds of the latter.
10. Bathing Newborn Babies with Boiling Milk
Karaha Pujan is a bizarre tradition practiced in certain parts of India. Newborn babies are bathed with boiling milk, often by the father. The ritual is usually performed in Hindu temples and seen by many people. Throughout the ritual, Hindu priests known as purohit chant mantras. The milk is prepared by women who boil it in earthen pots. Once the milk has boiled, the father carries the baby, then puts his legs inside the pot of boiling milk and pours the hot milk onto the baby’s body. The ritual doesn’t end there — the father then pours the boiling milk on himself. According to its practitioners, this bizarre tradition is “meant to please the gods” so that the child could be blessed. The Indian government disagreed and banned this painful practice.
9. Letting Babies Have Their Naps in Sub-Zero Temperatures Outside
In Sweden it’s common for parents to leave their babies outside to nap even when the temperatures are sub-zero. Many of us would find this custom dangerous, but many Swedes actually consider it good for their babies. They believe that by exposing their young ones to their country’s cold temperatures they’ll grow up healthy and protected from diseases. They also believe that letting their babies sleep outside will help them sleep longer and better.
It’s not only parents who do this, but day-care centers as well. A pre-school called the Forskolan Orren, which is located outside Stockholm, lets babies under the age of three sleep outside during naptime. Their theory is that babies who sleep outside are “less likely to catch coughs and colds.”
8. Babies Can’t Touch the Ground for Three Months
In Bali, Indonesia, there’s a bizarre custom that prohibits babies from touching the ground for three months. The reason is that during the baby’s first months its connection to the “spirit” is still intact and letting it touch the ground would defile it. Many Balinese consider this ritual to be very sacred.
For three months, the baby is constantly held in someone’s arms — the father, mother, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and even neighbors. Basically, everyone in the village helps make sure the baby’s feet don’t touch the ground. After 105 days, a special ceremony called the Nyabutan is held where the baby touches Mother Earth for the first time.
7. Preserving the Umbilical Cord
In Japanese culture the umbilical cord is very important. It’s valuable to the point that Japanese mothers keep it in a beautiful box called the Kotobuki Bako. Legend has it that this custom started when a woman in ancient times wanted a special object to serve as a memento for giving birth. Inside the Kotobuki Bako is a small doll wearing a kimono that symbolizes the mother’s baby. Often the cord is kept inside the kimono.
6. Bathing Babies with Cold Water
In Guatemala it’s common to see babies being bathed with cold water. Maya mothers commonly practice this bizarre ritual with the belief that it’s beneficial to the baby’s health. Bathing their babies with cold water is also an effective means to eliminate heat rash, and this custom helps babies sleep better. It might have a few health benefits, but it’s probably pretty unpleasant for the babies.
5. Letting the Baby Predict Its Future
In Armenia a bizarre ritual called the “Agra Hadig” is performed when a baby’s first tooth appears. The baby is placed on top of a table with various objects like a book, a knife, scissors, and more. It’s believed that the first object the baby touches will foretell its future career. For example, if the baby touches the knife then they might become a doctor. If they touches a book they become a priest or a pastor, while if they touch money they’ll become a banker.
To further complicate matters, if the Agra Hadig is performed in the afternoon only women are allowed to participate and only sweet foods are served. On the other hand, if it’s performed in the evening then men can participate and a full buffet dinner is served.
4. Forcing Babies to Cry
In Japan, a festival called the Nakizumo is held every April in Tokyo’s Sonsoji Temple. During this festive celebration, a competition is held where babies are encouraged and even forced to cry. Parents who let their infants participate believe that forcing their babies to cry will make them healthy and will ward off evil spirits.
During the competition, the babies are given to two sumo wrestlers. The first wrestler who can make his baby cry wins. If the babies cry at the same time, the wrestler whose baby cried the loudest wins. A priest is also present during the competition — his role is to shout and wave so the cries of the babies reach heaven. Those who follow this ritual believe that the louder the cries are, the more blessed the babies will be.
3. Spitting On Babies
When we see cute babies we usually fawn and admire them, but in Bulgaria people pretend to spit on the baby after praising them. According to Bulgarian folklore, the “Evil Eye” steals away anything and anyone that’s praised or admired by people. In order for the “Evil Eye” to not take away their baby, mothers make them look undesirable. And the best way to make their children unattractive is by spitting on them and uttering ridiculous phrases like “may the chickens poop on you.”
2. Jumping Over Babies
All parents want their babies to have a good life, but most wouldn’t risk the lives of their little ones to achieve that. But in the Spanish village of Castrillo de Murcia some parents allow their babies to be jumped over by a man in the belief that by doing so their young ones will be led “on a path to a good life.”
This tradition has been practiced since 1621. The man who jumps over the babies is called the El Colacho and he symbolizes the devil. By jumping over the babies, El Colacho drives the evil away from them. The participating babies are laid on a mattress which is placed in the town’s central square. El Colacho, who dresses in a yellow costume, then jumps over them. Surprisingly and thankfully, no injuries have ever been reported.
1. Throwing Babies from Temple Roofs
Some Indians allow their babies to be thrown from temple roofs as high as 50 feet. This strange custom started 500 years ago and continues to this day, though there’s a movement to ban it for obvious reasons. However, both Muslims and Hindus believe that performing this ritual brings good luck and health to their babies.
Below the roof is a bed sheet that’s held tightly by several men. The baby lands safely on the sheet and is then immediately passed through the crowd to their parents. The tradition’s practitioners and believers strongly attest that it’s safe, citing the fact that no babies have ever been injured.