Teething. We all know how long and painful that process can be. My son, who had his first tooth at four months, and three molars at ten, drooled 24-hours a day, chewed everything he could reach – clothes, toys, but mostly our new furniture, and looked like the unhappiest kid of the planet. When our baby’s first tooth finally erupted, we planned a big celebration. No, not because we thought our sleepless nights were over, but because Armenians have a tradition called Atamhatik (or Agra hadig).
Armenians are not the only nation that celebrates the first tooth of their baby. A short internet research showed baby’s first tooth is an important milestone for many nations in the world that link it with the ability of babies, among others, to eat solid food, i.e. to eat like adults. Let us discuss few beautiful first tooth traditions across the world.
The baby’s first tooth party is composed of two parts. The baby is placed on a floor, and a mixture of different grains, symbolizing prosperity, are poured over her or his head. Some may cover the head of the baby with a veil, scarf, or hands. Then, five different items are placed in front of the baby, starting from artisan tools to more modern appliances, and even money. The item the baby touches first symbolizes his or her future profession. For example, a baby who picks the comb will become a hairdresser, while the baby that touches the money will most likely become a banker. Some parents may overdo in orchestrating their kids future and place their favorite item closer to the baby.
Gendume Dushe (Jewish)
Mountainous Jews’ first tooth tradition is called Gendume Dushe. Baby’s grandmother cooks a dish from wheat, lentils, beans, rice, and beef shank, flavors it with nuts and onion, and distributes among neighbors. The belief is that baby’s gum will soften like the grains after cooking, and the teething will be less painful. Other sources mention the Jewish tradition of gently pouring sweet confetti over baby’s head.
Though Snayniyeh is a name of a dish, “snayn” means “teeth.” Snayniyeh is a special dish to celebrate baby’s first tooth in Lebanon. As in other traditions, this dish consists of cooked wheat garnished with sugar, grilled and colored chickpeas, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. Lebanese snayniyeh is very colorful.
Snayniyeh is sent to relatives and neighbors, who fill the emptied bowl with a small gift. There are no special requirements to the type of the gift, and it can be a knitted garment, money, fruits, toys or clothing.
A Chicken, or Cash (Nigerian)
The Igbo people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, have, perhaps, the most interesting and complicated tradition of baby’s first tooth. The first person who sees the teeth in baby’s mouth and mentions about it loudly must make a present for the baby. Mothers and grandmothers, who usually see the tooth first, keep their lips sealed. Moms take their babies around and make other people carry them with a hope that someone will speak of the tooth. They may ask a stranger to have a look into babies’ mouth to see what is bothering them. Eventually, they will find someone quick-tonged to proclaim, “Look at that tooth!” Usually, those who mentioned about the tooth buy a chicken for the baby. If they can’t provide a chicken, they can still pay cash.
A Silver Teaspoon (Russian)
Russian tradition of the first tooth is associated with a silver teaspoon, which is a gift made by the godmother, grandmother, grandfather or other close relatives of the baby. They believe that the mother needs to knock gently the first tooth with that silver spoon, or to feed the baby with it, so the baby has strong teeth in the future.
Tesh Atai (Bashkir, Russia)
Among Bashkirs, Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan, Russia, not a relative or a friend, but a complete stranger must first notice the first tooth of the baby. That person becomes the Tesh Atai – the tooth father – of the baby.
Resisting the evil (Karo Batak, Indonesia)
The mother of a baby who does not have baby teeth yet is always with him, because Karo Bataks living in the North Sumatra, Indonesia think that toothless babies are not enough strong to resist evil spirits alone. This is why the first tooth and hair are very important milestones for Karo Batak babies. When the first tooth of the baby erupts, Karo Bataks call a priest to predict the future of their baby. Hair and teeth (especially canines) are the visible expressions of the increasing and growing strength of the child, and if you want to cut your baby’s hair, you will need to wait until his or her canine teeth erupt.
I love baby traditions. Perhaps, among million things to do when you have little kids at home, it is not always easy to celebrate them, but they are an opportunity to stop and acknowledge that your baby has grown and met another milestone. Making small family celebrations (even a small cake or pancake may work) is a good way of coming together and having a little fun.
Did you celebrate your baby’s first tooth? Any cooking ideas or party photos to share with us?