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circoncision and mariage ceremonies Madagascar

Customs and traditions: circoncision and mariage ceremonies

The customs and traditions of the Malagasy people vary depending on the tribes and different periods in history. From birth to death, significant events in an individual’s life are marked by following traditional practices. There are several traditional customs to follow for each person from birth, and even during pregnancy, mothers already adhere to the traditional advice passed down by their grandmothers.

Pregnancy Customs and Traditions:

Pregnant women in this culture have certain customs and taboos to follow. For example, it is forbidden for a pregnant woman to sit in front of the door. They are also not allowed to wear items like scarves or necklaces that are tied around their bodies. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid putting food in their pockets and refrain from eating duck or goose feet to prevent the baby’s fingers from crossing each other. These practices are considered vital for ensuring a healthy pregnancy according to traditional beliefs.

Birth customs and traditions

It’s a tradition to give a calf or a cow its umbilical cord. The placenta is buried in the garden without looking back while carrying it. Not taking the babies out at night is believed to prevent evil spirits from wandering around and disturbing their sleep, causing constant crying. When a baby is teething, it’s recommended to put a raffia bracelet with a button on their arm. It’s said that we shouldn’t call a baby “big,” but instead say they are “alikalika.

The traditional “ala volon-jaza”:

When a baby reaches 3 months old, there is a traditional ceremony called “the first haircut” within the Merina community in Madagascar. During this ritual, the baby’s hair is cut for the first time and saved. The hair is then mixed with candies and honey on a tray, which is served to the guests attending the ceremony. A person with beautiful hair is chosen to influence how the child’s hair will grow. This tradition signifies the baby becoming a full member of the family.

The circumcision: Explanation and Practice

The circumcision tradition is very important in a boy’s life, typically performed around the age of 3. It takes place during the winter season as wounds are believed to heal faster during this time. In some regions like Mananjary in Southeast Madagascar, circumcision is done collectively every seven years for boys born within that period. This tradition involves following specific rituals and is deeply ingrained in the culture of these communities.

Marriage: The Basics

The traditional Malagasy wedding is very important to the people of Madagascar. It involves following specific rituals and procedures known as Vodiondry, which is a vital ceremony in Malagasy tradition. During this ceremony, there’s a ritual based on Kabary where the groom asks for the bride’s hand from her parents and presents them with various forms of dowry. Additionally, it is customary for a younger sister who marries before her older sister to offer some form of dowry to the elder sibling as a sign of respect.

Death and funeral ceremonies:

The way death is understood and the customs and rituals followed vary among different Malagasy ethnic groups. In the southern region, when a head of the family passes away, a matching number of zebus are slaughtered as per the deceased’s age. The funeral ceremony can be a festive occasion, particularly if the person who has passed is elderly. On the other hand, in the highlands, religious rites take precedence. For instance, in Merina tradition, it is forbidden to bury a body on Tuesdays or Thursdays; burial takes place on other days of the week or towards late afternoon when the sun sets.

The Famadihana: A Traditional Malagasy Ceremony

The Famadihana, also known as the turning of the dead, is a well-known and impressive tradition among the Malagasy people. It involves replacing the burial shrouds of ancestors and rewrapping their remains. This tradition is not just a ceremony; it is also considered a display of wealth by some. It serves as an important gathering for the extended family. The practice of Famadihana is limited to specific regions of Madagascar, particularly in the highlands. However, this tradition faces a gradual decline due to the influence and spread of Christianity, which poses a threat to its continued significance.

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