Uzbek Culture and Traditions Associated with Childbirth
The customs and rituals associated with childbirth and the period of chilla (forty days after childbirth) constitute the oldest layer of family and everyday rituals of Central Asians. Rites and traditions related to the birth of a child, along with the ancient mythical and magical beliefs, are still followed with the help of ancestors.
From the first days of a child’s life, a sense of loyalty to the family and parents is of great importance and is observed in a number of customs and superstitions after the birth of a child in Uzbekistan.
Feeding. Particular importance is attached to the first feeding of the child; it is associated with a number of customs and beliefs. Immediately after the birth, the mother feeds the child with colostrum, which is considered the most useful for the baby.
Feeding newborn baby should start by applying the child to mother’s right breast so that the child would become right-handed. If a mother’s milk was a lot, she would not be allowed to speak about it to protect from jinx. If a mother had to pump extra milk, it could not be poured into a dirty place or place where animals could reach, to avoid the disappearance of mother’s milk.
Babies are usually fed in a cradle, and mothers do not feed their child in the presence of her father-in-law or other male relatives of the husband. In general, to bare breasts for feeding even before women in daylight is not permitted because it was believed that breast milk could be lost.
Azan. One of the important customs and traditions of the Uzbeks associated with the birth of a child is reading azan by old people in the presence of the child’s father and grandfather immediately (or after some time) after the birth of the child to his right ear and reading Ikamah to the left. This ritual is very important because sacred words should be the first to reach the hearing of the baby. Azan can be spoken by the child’s grandfather, father, or an adult Muslim. The child’s name must also be pronounced in the right ear during this ceremony. It is believed that after the azan, the child’s perception of sounds begins to function.
Beshik to’y. In Uzbek families, the birth of a new child is always a great event that is always accompanied by a beautiful ritual—beshik to’y (the first laying of the baby in his own cradle). This event is usually conducted on the seventh, ninth, eleventh, or fortieth day from the birth. On this day, the relatives of the mother bring a cradle (beshik) with necessary accessories as well as traditional cakes, sweets, and numerous toys for the new child. All gifts are wrapped in a festive tablecloth (dastarkhan). Men are not allowed to attend; this is a purely women’s gathering. The sounds of traditional folk instruments (karnay, surnay, and drum) begin the celebration. Guests congratulate each other at the festive table. In a separate room, the young mother surrounded by aunts learns the first swaddling and placing the baby in the cradle.
Under the baby’s pillow, a knife (wishing to be brave) and a piece of bread (wishing to be provided with bread during his life) are put before the baby is put in the cradle. While the mother was nursing her baby, she is given bread, and this bread is taken by children around her. Various sweets were scattered next to the cradle, and the children eat them with the intention that the newborn’s life will be sweet and abundant.
Aqiqa. One of the most important traditions in Uzbekistan as a sign of gratitude to the Lord for the newborn child, it is desirable, if there is a material opportunity, to sacrifice a sheep. As mentioned in holy hadith, the sacrifice is best made on the seventh day after birth. The meat of al-‘akyq is distributed as follows: part is used by the parents, who sacrificed the animal, part is distributed as a charity, and the rest is shared among relatives.
Hair cutting. On the seventh day after the birth, it is desirable (according to Sunnah) to shave the child’s head. After that, hair should be weighed and corresponding to the weight of the hair amount, the silver is given as alms to the poor and needy people. Shaving the head strengthens the hair and scalp and improves vision, smell, and hearing, and the distribution of alms (sadaqah) helps support those in need; this is a manifestation of social solidarity among Muslims.
All the rituals and traditions related to childbirth in Uzbekistan are of paramount importance for a child to become a perfect person.