Maltese Folklore - Birth and Childhood

Birth and Childhood

Traditional Maltese proverbs reveal a cultural preoccupation with childbearing and fertility: "iż-żwieġ mingħajr tarbija ma fihx tgawdija" (a childless marriage cannot be a happy one). This is a belief that Malta shares with many other Mediterranean cultures, most notably, Israel, Palestine and Morocco. In Maltese folktales, the local variant of the classic closing formula, "and they all lived happily ever after" is "u għammru u tgħammru, u spiċċat" (and they lived together, and they had children together, and the tale is finished).

Rural Malta shares in common with Mediterranean and traditional Jewish society a number of superstitions regarding fertility, menstruation, and pregnancy, including the avoidance of cemeteries during the months leading up to childbirth, and avoiding the preparation of certain foods during menses. Pregnant women are encouraged to satisfy their cravings for specific foods, out of fear that their unborn child will bear a representational birth mark (Maltese: xewqa, literally "desire" or "craving"). Maltese and Sicilian women also share certain traditions that are believed to predict the sex of an unborn child, such as the cycle of the moon on the anticipated date of birth, whether the baby is carried "high" or "low" during pregnancy, and the movement of a wedding ring, dangled on a string above the abdomen (sideways denoting a girl, back and forth denoting a boy).

Traditionally, Maltese newborns were baptised as promptly as possible, partly out of fear of limbo should the child die in infancy, and partly because according to Maltese (and Sicilian) folklore an unbaptised child is not yet a Christian, but "still a Turk". Traditional Maltese delicacies served at a baptismal feast include biskuttini tal-magħmudija (almond macaroons covered in white or pink icing), it-torta tal-marmorata (a spicy, heart-shaped tart of chocolate-flavoured almond paste), and a liqueur known as rożolin, made with rose petals, violets and almonds.

On a child's first birthday, in a tradition that still survives today, Maltese parents would organize a game known as il-quċċija, where a variety of symbolic objects would be randomly placed around the seated child. These may include a hard-boiled egg (when grown lots of money), a Bible(they become priests), crucifix or rosary beads(they become sisters), a book, and so on. Whichever object the child shows most interest in is said to reveal the child's path and fortunes in adulthood.

Money refers to a rich future while a book expresses intelligence and a possible career as a teacher. Infants who select a pencil or pen will be writers. Choosing bibles or rosary beads refers to a clerical or monastic life. If the child chooses a hard-boiled egg, it will have a long life and many of children. More recent additions include calculators (refers to accounting), thread (fashion) and wooden spoons (cooking and a great appetite).

Read more about this topic:  Maltese Folklore

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