You know you’ve found a popular tourist attraction when you see a statue with a shiny spot. From Ireland‘s Blarney Stone to Istanbul‘s “weeping” column in Hagia Sophia, visitors love any place that has brought luck to others. Today’s Photo of the Day, by Flickr user Kumukulanui, is from Paris‘ Montmartre, and of Jean Marais’ sculpture “The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls.” Based on a short story, it’s believed that if you touch his left hand, you might be able to pass through some walls yourself, or at least take some zany pictures giving him a high five.
Being pregnant in a foreign country, even as a traveler, gives you a unique perspective into a culture, their beliefs and practices, and values. While I’ve been in Istanbul, I’ve found Turkish superstitions to apply to all aspects of life, pregnancy and children no exception. Over the past six months, I’ve heard a lot of interesting customs and beliefs, some of them wackier than others. Turks love babies and tend to be deferential towards pregnant women – I always get a seat on the train and am often offered help whether I need (or want) it or not.
As a foreigner with a non-Turkish husband, I’ll be exempt from many of these traditions, but enjoy learning about each of them.
The nazar – don’t leave home without it
If you’ve been to Turkey, you’ve undoubtedly seen the nazar boncuk, or evil eye, everywhere. The blue glass stone is put on doorways, cars, jewelry, and anywhere else it can be attached to. There is no religious significance and not many people still believe the old superstitions, but the tradition remains. Few Turkish parents would let their child out without a nazar pinned to their clothing for protection from evil spirits.
Beware of cold
Nearly every illness in Turkey will be attributed to cold drafts, and this means many Turks will not use air conditioning in summer, and bundle babies even on the hottest days. Cold floors are repeatedly the culprit, and women should avoid walking barefoot to avoid infertility, miscarriage, and just unpleasant gas. Mothers-to-be should wear slippers to avoid lectures from Turks. After birth, the mother should continue to stay warm while breastfeeding, as cold milk will result in a stomachache.
My favorite Turkish custom has yet to happen for me, but it’s said that if a pregnant woman smells food, she must taste it. In theory, waiters might chase pregnant women down the street with a food sample to avoid bad luck. If you crave sweet things, you’ll have a boy; sour food means a girl. A lot of red meat will result in a boy, mainly vegetables, a girl. If a pregnant woman eats eggs, the baby will be naughty. Any particular food cravings may result in a birthmark on the baby in the shape of the food. I’ll keep you posted if I have a badly-behaved set of boy-and-girl twins with pickle-shaped birthmarks.
Be careful what you look at
According to Turkish custom, pregnant women should look at nothing but pretty things while expecting, for fear that the baby could take on unpleasant characteristics of an ugly, disabled, or dead person. Trips to the zoo are limited too, it’s bad luck to look at bears, monkeys, or camels. It is said that if you look at a person often, the baby will resemble them, so keep watching Mad Men if you want a handsome boy. For extra measure, once the baby is born, never call him cute or pretty, best to call it ugly so that the spirits won’t make it so.
Cutting the cord
When the baby is being delivered, fathers will choose a secret name and tell the doctor, who will whisper it into the baby’s ear as she is born. After birth, the umbilical cord has to be properly disposed of, and where it is buried will influence the child’s life. Bury it outside a mosque for a devout child, at a medical school for a future doctor (I’m guessing Harvard must have a lot of umbilical cords in the grounds). Circumcision practices are a whole other story, but they happen much later in life for boys and involve little sultan’s costumes.
Visiting the baby
Traditionally, new mothers didn’t leave the house for the first 40 days of the baby’s life, but this is rarely the case today in Turkish cities. Baby showers take place after the birth in the home of the new baby. New parents should provide small gifts for guests who visit the baby, such as chocolates or a sachet of herbs. In return, guests bring pieces of gold for the baby (also common at Turkish weddings) and drink a special drink, Lohusa Şerbeti, to welcome the newborn.
Sweat the small stuff
Most of us have heard that pregnant women should be careful coloring their hair (it’s really fine, just avoid getting color on your skin), but many Turks also believe that cutting the mother’s hair will cut the baby’s life short. Speaking of short, don’t measure the baby, lest he stay short-statured. Finally, they may be small, but don’t think you can just step over a baby: it’s bad luck for you as babies are considered to be angels.
Many thanks to my Turkish and expat friends at the Sublime Portal for their stories, input and advice!
Gadling readers, what beliefs are popular in your country or places you’ve traveled?
[Photo courtesy Flickr user Camera on Autopilot]
Want more Knocked Up Abroad? Check out the first few installments here, and stay tuned for more on travelling in the second and third trimester, where to do pre-baby shopping, and more on having a baby in a foreign country.
Here’s to hoping that this shot by Moody75 will bring me good luck. Actually, by the time you see this, dear Gadling readers, I may or may not have made it to Amsterdam in time to see canals such as this one. If it is not on time, I won’t be able to take my daughter to Anne Frank’s house or to the pancake place I want to return to. Instead, we will stay at the airport so we won’t miss our connection to Copenhagen.
When I was looking for my Photo of the Day choice, I zeroed in on Amsterdam since that is where I am hoping to be on this very day. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to be positive. Now, here is the oddest coincidence. Moody75 posted this exactly two years ago on December 3. Notice today’s date? December 3. This shot is exactly what I’m hoping we will see. Fingers crossed.
Send your photos to us at Gadling’s Flickr photo pool. Perhaps, one of your shots will bring us good luck.
An Aussie backpacker won US$830,000 in a lottery after he impulsively decided to buy a ticket when he arrived to New Zealand. Before becoming a millionaire in Kiwi-land, the plan was to travel around the country for a few months, fruit picking on the way. “However, we will now be able to travel in a bit more style,” he says.
This story made me wonder: if I won the lottery, how would that change my plans?
Honestly, I’d still backpack. I repel 5-star hotels. Other than a luxurious bath, they really have nothing to offer and they make me feel like I am living in a posh, protected bubble that hides everything real the place I’m visiting has to offer. Paying a fortune for a clean bed makes no sense to me and often makes me feel sick.
This feeling was reemphasized lately when I went to Barcelona for work and I was put up in the Arts Hotel — the most expensive hotel in the city. Everyone spoke English, I was surrounded by every nationality except Spaniards, a measly and tasteless coffee cost me €5(!!), and there was no place in my vicinity (other than a grubby Chinese restaurant) where I could eat for less than €20. I would much rather have stayed in a cheap little hostel in the city center where I would meet cool people (who don’t have a pole up their backside or a $ sign on their forehead) and have access to cheap local food and bars where the Catalans hang.
So if I won the jackpot, I would invest some of the money in assets that would generate consistent revenue so I could spend more time more often on the road; the rest I would give to some cause. What would you do?
Thanks to the Internet that allows us to travel and educate ourselves without getting out of our pajamas, today we can be privy into lifestyles and traditions of radically different cultures. And, when culture and superstitions blend, it’s almost impossible not to have an an interestingly strange (if not explosively bizarre) outcome: believing that wearing red panties with rats on them will bring you good fortune, for example.
That’s exactly what’s happening in Malaysia: Chinese women are buying red panties — this year with rat motifs — in order to get lucky as the Chinese Year of the Rat is about to begin on February 7. They say if you really believe in something, it will probably come true and if wearing red panties will strengthen your belief, why the heck not, eh!?
The Chinese new year is celebrated with a bang throughout the world. Most Chinese cities will have a 3-day public holiday to bring in the new year, and Chinatowns around the world will rejoice the beginning of the rat year through parades, firework displays, multi-course banquets and parties. Unlike the rest of us, the Chinese party for a good month post their new year’s day.
The Lunar Calendar determines the Chinese New Year. Although the western calendar is what’s mainly referred to by the Chinese, the zodiac Lunar Calendar still holds much importance.
I have never followed the Chinese calendar nor do I entirely understand it, but I do know that according to it I’m a monkey. The last Chinese Year of the Monkey was 2004, so if it’s a 12-year cycle, I suppose I’ll be celebrating in 2016?