Outside the labor room, husband nervously checking his watch, aunt and uncle suggesting names to grandma – dadi jaan who is serving chai to grandpa – dada abbu from a thermos and 5 children of the family running around the corridors of the waiting area and questioning for the tenth time…’chota baby kab aega?!’ Finally the first cries of the newborn and it’s time to celebrate! – The typical Pakistani family and typical Pakistani celebrations.
The addition of a new baby to a family is seen as a great blessing and an occasion of joy and celebration all around the world. In Pakistana wide variety of ceremonies take place throughout the different stages of infancy. Starting from Godh Bharai or baby-shower which is a social gathering of family and close friends to congratulate and to express words of support and encouragement to an expectant mother, followed by the Azaan and Iqamah said in the newborns ears after birth, which are among the essential Pakistani celebrations after birth.
Ahmed, sarah, Abdullah, Fatima…What shall be his or her name? This is an important task in which the entire family participates; grandmothers and grandfathers are especially consulted for their approval. After the name is decided the family waits until the seventh day when the child is pledged with Aqiqah, which is the sacrifice of a goat, the meat is either given away as sadqa or it is used by the family for a feast in which everyone presents the newborn with gifts and blessings, also the hair is shaved off the baby’s head for a healthy growth followed by the circumcision of boys, which is among typical Pakistani celebrations. The baby boy is circumcised at the time of aqiqah as it is easier on a baby than it is on an older boy. However it can be delayed for practical reasons, but it is a wise to do it before the boy starts praying.
Bismillah is a ceremony which marks the beginning of a child’s learning about Islam through the recitation of the Holy Quran. It takes place at the age of four to five. The ceremony is a very special occasion for the child, who is dressed in his or her best clothes, shalwar kurta, topi for boys and dupatta for girls. The same is followed on the completion of reading the Holy Quraan for the first time; this achievement is celebrated with Ameen where everyone joins in prayer for the child that his knowledge and their own will be increased. He or she is asked to recite the Quran in front of the guests who later gift with money and presents and the celebration ends with a dinner and distribution of sweets – Mithai between the family members, friends and around the neighborhood. These Pakistani celebrations are part of almost every family.
Roza Khushai is another occasion which is celebrated when the child keeps the very first fast ‘Roza’ during the month of Ramadan. It is considered an accomplishment for which the child is higly appreciated, encouraged and treated with the traditional snacks of his or her liking on breaking the fast. This may include a variety of delicacies like samosas, pakoras, kebabs, fruit chat etc. sweet drinks- called sherbet, and jalebis are served on the daster-khuwan to soothe the sweet tooth.
In our country dada dadi and nana nani in the family are particularly expected to be actively involved in their upbringing and education of the children and they are loved and cared by the entire extended family which keeps a note and looks forward to celebrate these important traditions after birth. Most of these traditional Pakistani celebrations are rich with religious customs which keeps the practices alive for centuries and with the addition of modern ideas with time these celebrations have become more enjoyable and festive!