Thursday, January 8, 2015

Midwive's Day

In the mountains of Greek Macedonia, the women honor the midwife, Babo, or St. Domenika. St. Domenika was a midwife, who according to tradition, birthed the Christ child. The women insist the men take over the housework on this day. Only women of childbearing age are allowed to participate, since it is hoped that by doing so they will ensure fertility. They dress all in white and honor the village midwife with gifts of practical tools such as towels and soap, but also wine and food. The attending women pour water for the midwife to wash her hands, and then she is expected to kiss a phallic shaped object (typically a sausage), which needless to say is a symbol of fertility. The midwife then sits on a makeshift throne wearing flowers, braids of garlic and onions, a necklace of figs, while the attending women dance around her kissing the sausage. Afterwards there is great feasting with good food and wine, however no attending woman is allowed to get drunk. The men are expected, of course, to stay indoors during this celebration. It goes without saying that the women return home with the hopes of getting pregnant.

A somewhat similar tradition takes place in Bulgaria. The story relates how a king ordered the old women to kill all newborn Jewish boys. The women refused out of fear of God. Babinden, or Old Midwives Day, is a feast to honor the old midwives, and includes new mothers and their babies. The day begins with a ritual bathing of the children by the midwife, followed by a symbolic, but sticky, spreading of honey and butter on them. Everything is conducted with blessings and wishes for health. This is followed by a feast for the midwives. Women who have been delivered of their babies by the midwives participate by bringing gifts of bread, cheeses, pastries, roasted chickens and wine. They help the midwife to wash her hands, then give her a new shirt, apron, head scarf and socks. No men are allowed to attend.

(photo from Wikipedia)

In both traditions, the women carry the midwife to a well or a river and ritually bathe her, all while singing and dancing, before returning her back to her home.

If you are a new mom, this is the perfect day to show appreciation for someone who has helped you deliver, whether a midwife, doctor, nurse, or a friend. Take a gift of cookies or something easy to make, something you know they might enjoy.

If you haven't given birth recently, or not at all, this day does not need to be related specifically to childbirth. Perhaps you are *birthing* any kind of creative project or going through an adoption of a child or pet. Take this day to honor yourself as midwife with a special feast you prepare (or someone prepares for you!), or go out for a nice dinner.

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