How Countries Celebrate New Moms

There is hardly a society on Earth that does not go out of its way to honor maternity, its primary source of sustainability.

Hands open to the children of the world

There is hardly a society on Earth that does not go out of its way to honor maternity, its primary source of sustainability. The Western World’s most beloved statue is Michelangelo’s mother and child, called Pieta, the Italian word meaning mercy, compassion, humaneness. The Chinese word good is a mother and baby hieroglyph. Cultures embrace birth, the most profound and pivotal human event, with ceremonies for the newborn and special care for the new mother. Certain foods are believed to protect and nurture both of them.

Japan

When their baby is 100 days old, Japanese parents perform the traditional Okuizome ceremony to signal hope the child throughout its entire life span is always blessed with plenty of good food and never knows hunger. Okuizome means “first meal” and it is typically an elaborate banquet of dishes such as Sekihan (red beans with sticky rice) that is very popular for auspicious occasions and Sea Bream with head and tail intact because its Japanese name Tai has the same pronunciation as the word for happy/joyous, making this particular fish a symbol of wealth and prosperity. A clear soup and pickled vegetables-- staples of any Japanese meal, are also served. Of course, the baby can’t eat any of it. It just gets milk while the parents and grandparents consume the feast in its honor.

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Korea

After delivering the baby, South Korean women get a bowl of seaweed soup, miyeok guk, at every meal. The significant amount of calcium and iodine in the seaweed is believed essential for restoring the postpartum body to full strength, and for stimulating the flow of mother’s milk. Often, this same seaweed soup is also served on the baby’s first birthday as a reminder of its entry into the world. New mothers are encouraged to eat fenugreek, methi, a spice made from tiny ocher colored seeds that they often just swallow, because fenugreek is believed to encourage the flow of breast milk. In Kathmandu, Newari women who have just given birth are also served a special sacred soup called Kwati, a stew of nine different lentils and beans (e.g. mung and soy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas) that have been sprouted to maximize their energy. The protein packed soup is supposed to help post partum bodies quickly recover their strength to take up maternal duties. It is of course flavored with fenugreek.

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