Fun Fact Friday – WEEK 172
Some Babies Have a Laughing Party!
Hearing the sound of a laughing baby is one of the most amazing sounds to hear. And that sound is even sweeter if you’re the one that made them laugh.
In some cultures, a baby’s first laugh is a cause for celebration. But, guess what?
If you’re the person that made them laugh, you’re footing the bill for a party!
Has your baby laughed yet?
We’re not talking a smirk or a wind-induced smile – but a full-on, honest laugh that invokes joy.
That may seem an odd question to most. But, it would be an incredibly pertinent and important one if you were Navajo.
For the Navajo people, when a baby comes into this world they believe it floats somewhere between the spiritual world and the physical one. They are not fully part of our world, the earth people, and still remain part of the spiritual one, the holy people.
The Navajo believe that this is where a baby spends its first few months, in a state of limbo, neither part of the solid, physical world or completely of the spiritual one either.
That is, until one pivotal moment: Their first laugh. Their first laugh is a cause for celebration and is marked with a “ The Baby Laughed” Celebration or “A Laughing Party”.
Usually happening around the age of 3 months old, the first laugh – in Navajo tradition – is a momentous point, marking a baby’s full transition into the physical world. A baby’s first laugh is thought to mark the point where they cut their ties to the spiritual realm and become fully committed to the physical one. It is the first evidence of them joining their human family and paves the way for talking and other social interactions.
A baby’s first laugh usually involves two people. The laughing baby and the laugh inducer. The latter is just as revered as the former.
To be responsible for a baby’s first laugh is considered a great honour. A great honour that comes with an even greater responsibility. It is said that the laugh inducer will play a significant part in the baby’s life and that the baby will take on their personality. They play a central part in the laughing party celebrations, not only being responsible for organising the entire thing but also paying for it.
At the ceremony, rock salt and other gifts are given to each of the attendees – by the baby, with an adult’s help. This is considered the first opportunity to train the new family member in generosity, a value held very high to the Navajo.
As you may expect, with the laugh inducer being held in such high esteem and their personal traits thought to be imprinted upon the laughing baby, Navajo mothers and fathers closely monitor those who come into contact with their new family member.
The funny thing is, this is something that many new parents feel, instinctively. But, are unable to fully explain.
The first few months are pivotal to many aspects of a baby’s life; critical for bonding, for physical development and especially for brain development. Traditions similar to the Navajos are abound in different cultures. Almost all of them adhere to time within the first three months.
In Korea it is referred to as “the 100 days of birth”, whilst in Japan, there is a period of “peace and quiet with pampering”. In India, there is a tradition of confinement for 40 days, where new mothers are taken care of. They also have a saying that goes “the first 40 days of life will impact the next 40 years of life”. In African countries, it’s common for mothers to remain quietly at home for up to 3 months. And there are many more besides.
All these traditions refer to something many will know as” The Fourth Trimester”. The fourth trimester is about meeting needs, bonding, and helping all parties adapt to their new circumstances. Think of it as a transition from womb to world.
We’ve written about the fourth trimester before and covered tips to help this transition. Those tips were:
- Do as little as possible
- Baby Wear
- Listen to and watch for your baby’s cues
- Feed on demand
- Aid Baby with sleep
- And probably the most important one of all: Follow your instincts
The need to keep newborns close and protected in those first few months is pre-programmed into our biology, making it something many feel on an instinctual level. Many new parents feel a clawing need to NOT pass the baby to Aunt Edna or Great Uncle Frank or even the new grandparents.
Unfortunately, modern society and social pressures lead us to believe that this is unreasonable. Yet, it is completely reasonable and perfectly normal; a biological imperative that ensures the safety of your newborn and their survival through the most vulnerable period of their life.
There is a beautiful elegance to many traditions and the Navajo tradition of laughing parties is definitely one of them. Maybe new parents would be less likely to hand the baby to grumpy aunt Mavis if they were likely to take on her traits. But, more importantly, overbearing relatives may be less enthusiastic about wrenching your newborn from your arms, especially if they were facing the bill for a party.