Advice Column, Baby, Pregnancy & Baby

Twin traditions in various cultures

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  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Pregnancy & Baby

We live in country with many cultures and traditions. Have multiples is a special experience. Speaking to various parents I have realised there are many different cutlass ceremonies and beliefs to having Multiples.

We spoke to three different moms. A Hindu mom, a Shona mom and a Ndebele mom.

Ashana comes from a hindi speaking family. Her husband is from a telegu speaking family. Her husband is second generation South African indian, and Ashana is fourth generation South African indian. They have no history of twins in their families, so the news of their spontaneous twin pregnancy was a shock. The twins were born on the 9 September 2015. They live in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.

Do you hold any traditional ceremonies after the birth of your multiples?  We follow the telegu tradition. So on the 9th day after the birth , we held a naming ceremony for our twins. A hindu priest performs a ceremony were the babies are blessed and there names are whispered into their ears. It is a beautiful ceremony.

How long is it before family members can see your babies? Immediate family members, i.e. Grandparents and parents siblings were allowed to see the babies at the hospital on the day of birth. Other family members and friends generally call to congratulate  and enquire as to when it will be appropriate to visit. For our twins we have decided to only really take them out and to have contact with extended family and friends after 40 days.

Are any payments made by anyone ? (gifts etc) Grandparents generally purchase a piece of gold jewellery for the babies. This may be a gold chain with a pendant of a hindu deity, a gold bracelet with black beads or a small gold knife which is pined onto the childs clothes. The black beads and the knife are important as it is believed to aid in protecting the child from the ‘evil eye’.

Whose custom do you follow? My husband comes from a telegu speaking family and I am from a hindi speaking family. We follow his traditions.

When you give birth to twins are there any special requirements ? i.e they must be separated immediately etc. My twins are the first in both our families. There are no special requirements.

Is it considered lucky to have twins, if so why?  It is considered to be a blessing. Traditionally the time and date of the birth of your child is given to a hindu priest. The priest then uses Vedic astrology to determine a letter of the alphabet for which your child’s name should start with. This is then used to determine the child’s name.

Samanatha Dube aged 37 years is has twin girls aged 20 years old. She is a Ndebele mom living in Johannesburg.

Who chooses their names? The grandfather from their father’s side choose the names. Since they were my first babies, and the granny from the mother’s side give them second names.

Traditional Ceremonies? When you are 7 to 8 months pregnant, you reside with your in-laws until you give birth. The mother- in- law will  fetch you from the hospital. On your way to the house, you would stop at an intersection to light (impepha) as it is believed that if this is not done your babies will be weak, and will easily get sick. After 3 months, a cow is slaughtered and (inyongo) poured onto their heard as a sign of welcoming them to the family.

How long before the family see the babies? We wait till their umbilical cords drop. This is when close family members are allowed to come in, you may however not touch or hold the baby’s before you sprinkle them with water, in their faces and you give them a drop of water before you pick them up.

Are any payments made by anyone ? (gifts etc) It is a must that you pay first before you see the babies, it can be cash or any form of a present.

Whose Custom do you follow? In our black culture when you are married, the children belong to the husband’s family, but when you are not married they belong to the wife’s family.

When you give birth to the Twins? It is considered as a big blessing for the family, and it is made sure that nothing harmful occurs to them. If  there is a full moon, you cover their whole bodies with ashes. This is done outside and they don’t look back till they get in the house. The same would occur when one of them is sick.

After 3 months, a group of elder (females) come early in the morning to take you out of the yard they will be sing songs of joy and take turns to hold the baby’s. Mom would traditionally be covered in a white cloth. As this ritual is being performed,   the aunt will  collect soil from the intersection (where two roads meet) and they will use this soil to bath the baby’s. This is done as a way of welcoming the kids to this world and making them strong. After these rituals have been completed, everyone is allowed to see the baby’s.

Tecla Gwangwaza is a 34 year old Shona mom from Zimbabwe. She has two sets of twins aged 11 and 7 years who live in Zimbabwe. Tecla lives in Johannesburg and has helped many multiple families working as a night nurse. There is a history of multiples in her family. Tecla’s father’s family has a strong twin line. Her 3 uncles have each had a set of twins and her aunt had a set of twins.

Who chooses the names? The father chooses the names because sometimes they need to name them after their parents, mother can just choose the optional names or second names.

Traditional ceremonies? When you are married,  at 6-7 months pregnant, the husband’s family will take you back to your family, until such time as you give birth[masungiro]

After the birth of the baby’s, names will be chosen and they will slaughter a goat and chicken as a way of appreciation and welcoming the baby’s to the family.

How long before family can see the babies? We wait until the baby’s drop the umbilical cord. At this time, family and friends are allowed to see the baby’s. You however for long travels need to wait until they reach 3 months of age.

Are any payments made by anyone ? (gifts etc) A  traditional ceremony [masungiro] is done prior to the birth where they will slaughter animals e.g. goats and chicken.

Whose custom do you follow? The husband’s custom is followed because in our black culture when you give birth the child is not for the wife’s family but now belong to the husband’s family.

When you give birth to twins? They have to be separated so they don’t get sick at same time. We believe in taking them in the early morning, before sunrise. The mother will place ashes on both breasts and an elder will bring them baby’s for breastfeeding and whilst they are being fed,  the elders would separate them in different directions.

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