Greek culture is rich in traditions, customs and superstitions about newborn babies. They have their roots in paganism and in Christian religion. Some of them are still followed, depending on people’s religious beliefs, social class, education, and origin.
Before the birth
- The baby’s gender was predicted by the shape of the pregnant woman’s belly: if the belly was rather “edged”, the baby would be a boy. (Αγόρι, agori, boy / κορίτσι, koritsi, girl).
- In the past, boys were preferred to girls because people needed extra hands to work in the fields, but also because boys would continue the family name.
After the birth
- In the past, it was believed that the new mother was the source of jealousy and must avoid the “evil eye” (κακό μάτι, kako mati) Therefore, she was never seen in public for forty days. After this period, she would take her baby to the church, the baby was blessed by the priest, and they could both start going out.
- On the eighth day after the birth, the Fates (Μοίρες, mires) visit the newborn and determine their future. This belief had its roots in Greek mythology.
- The baby’s clothes were never washed and air-dried at night because they would attract the bad spirits. I know it’s creepy, but it’s just a superstition.
- Before Christening, the baby’s hair was never cut. (Βάπτιση, vaptisi, baptism). This tradition is still followed by the parents who want to have their baby baptized. The baby is also never called by his or her name before the baptism.
- The name of the baby is still a big issue. Even nowadays, most babies are named after their grand-parents. If the first baby is a boy, he gets the name of his grandfather’s from his father’s side.
- Although breastfeeding is not a taboo, most Greek women avoid to do that in public because people feel uncomfortable. (Θηλάζω, thilazo, to breastfeed. / Ο θηλασμός, o thilasmos, breastfeeding.)
Presents for newborns
- Something gold: Usually, it’s a lucky charm to protect the baby from being jinxed by the “evil eye”, or a jewelry. This tradition has its roots in Christian religion because gold was one of the presents that Jesus got from the Three Wizard Kings.
- Some elderly people, when visiting a baby for the first time, put money under the pillow. Although their intentions are good, this gesture is not always appreciated by parents because of hygiene reasons.
- Some of the most common presents are clothes, blankets and sheets, towels and teddies. Sometimes, moms get practical presents too, such as bottle warmers, breast pumps, fertilizers or even prams and infant car sits.
- To the parents:
- Informal: Να σου ζήσει! (na sou zisei ). The meaning of this wish is “may the baby have a good life.”
- Formal: Να σας ζήσει! (na sas zisei).
- To the grandparents:
- Informal: Να σου ζήσει το εγγονάκι! (na sou zisei to eggonaki). The meaning of this wish is “may your little grand child have a good life.”
- Formal: Να σας ζήσει το εγγονάκι! (na sas zisei to eggonaki).
Godparents are considered as the child’s spiritual parents so it’s a great honor to be a godparent. After the baptism takes place, we wish them to be always capable of accomplishing serious tasks, like this one.
- To the godfather: Πάντα άξιος! (Panta axios. Litterally: (be) always capable)
- To the godmother: Πάντα άξια!