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babies, superstitions, folk beliefs, predictions, stairs, baptism, hair
A handwritten set of notes entitled, "Babies and Superstitions", compiled by Ida Hollenbach, dating from circa 1950. Within, various beliefs surrounding newborn babies are documented including hair cutting, baptism and a birthday ritual to determine the life path a baby will follow.
Packet 732-18 to 732-19
Babies and Superstitions
Back in the days when my life was new no one ever thought of going to a hospital to have a baby. No, the family doctor brought him to the home in his little black bag. And what a thrill it was, having a new baby in the family, though it was too bad the doctor brought one only when mother was sick. Those were long days with mother upstairs and a strange woman in the kitchen and on the morning we heard mother was rejoining the family group we went about singing a little song in our hearts - “Mother comes down today. Mother comes down today!” And, of course she was bringing the new baby. But before he could be carried down stairs he had to be taken upstairs to make sure of his going up in the world some day. If there was no attic to take him to one could, and did, lift him up and step onto a chair! This was the first of the superstitions bound up with his little life. Now came a period of waiting for the baby might not be taken away from the house to call on neighbors, cousins, or aunts before he was baptized. That would have been bad luck, indeed. Meanwhile, all the family helped select a name and finally one day our pastor called and when he left the baby was no longer “It”. He had a name all his own. And how he grew. The fine fuzz on his near bald head grew longer and longer and so did the tiny finger nails. The little top grew quite shaggy in time but the hair might not be cut before he was a year old and all that could be done was try to slick it down. The little nails, however, were another matter. Mother could take care of those by biting them for that baby could not be allowed to grow up “long fingered”!
And then, before it seemed possible, came the first birthday and such an important day. The baby was seated on the floor and in a circle about him were placed various objects - a book, a coin, a bottle, a potato, etc and the article he reached for first was to foretell his future. If he reached for the coin he would be rich, if for the book, a scholar, for the potato, a farmer but O, how fearful of the bottle was mother who might once venture to guide the little hand for the bottle foretold a drunkard.
This was the last of the superstitions and from now on the little fellow was a free individual.
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Hollenbach, Ida, "Babies and Superstitions" (1950). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 132.
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