PANTANG

Chinese Pregnancy Traditions and Taboos

Parenthood discovers all sorts of unusual Chinese traditions (and taboos). Some of them are pretty unusual to our un-superstitious way of thinking, although we were told that many are just common sense. See what you think!

1. No building baby nurseries. Chinese believe it is important for the expectant mother to be relaxed. And this extends to a belief that there should be no banging of nails (or other sharp objects) into walls. Practically, this means that very few parents go all out and renovate elaborate baby nurseries. And many parents chose to co-sleep or have their baby in the same room anyway (or with grandparents). But also, any major renovation work surrounding a pregnant mother is considered too seriously taboo.

2. Beware. There is a Chinese belief that pregnant women should avoid scissors, especially anywhere near the marital bed. The worry is that it will somehow affect the baby in utero and that he or she would be born with something missing or incomplete (e.g. a cleft lip).

3. Avoid people touching you on the shoulder. This one is a bit hard to avoid, especially in early pregnancy before you are showing. If someone is going to tap you on the shoulder it is usually to get your attention, in which case you wouldn’t have a clue they are about to touch you. We are not sure about the origin of this taboo, but it is considered unlucky for anyone to tap a pregnant woman on the shoulder.

4. Surround yourself with pictures of beautiful children. Being a great believer in the law of attraction, we understand the general sentiment behind seeking to surround yourself with positive images of cute children and beautiful things when pregnant. While you cannot totally shut out the difficulties of the world, it is important to focus on a happy and stress-free birth.

5. Don’t attend funerals, or if you do, wear a red scarf. In the chinese custom, funeral rites go on for up to 49 days with major ceremonies every seven days. Usually pregnant women are advised to avoid going to funeral related activities (presumably a reverse application of surrounding yourself with positive images). If attendance is necessary, you will be advised to wear a red scarf around your belly to ‘protect’ your baby. And having a lucky talisman helps as well.

6. Don’t touch the bride. In some households, pregnant women are discouraged from attending weddings. Or if they do go, they are not allowed to go near the bride and certainly not to touch her. There is no suggestion behind this superstition that a pregnant woman would bring the bride or groom bad luck: on the contrary, the usual wish is for Chinese couples to go forth and multiply. The reason is something to do with hierarchy on a bride’s special day. No-one should upstage the bride, and the gods looking after the pregnant woman might rank more highly than those who are there to protect the bride. So best to avoid the two from meeting.

7. Eat and eat and then eat some more. This is universal. Pregnancy brings with it an obsession for many people to make pregnant women eat. In the first trimester, women are usually encouraged to drink special soups to help protect and strengthen them. The jury is out as to whether fish or chicken soups are best; the main thing is that they are nutritious. Some families encourage pregnant women to eat large portions constantly.