Although the customs surrounding the birth of a baby had their origins many centuries ago, and most of them have not survived, there are still some customs which have made it to modern times and are generally followed by all women after giving birth.
When a baby is born, the baby is not taken out of the house for a period of 40 days. During this time, only close family members are allowed to visit and to see the baby. In ancient times, this was due to the fact that a woman was considered “unclean” and as a result, she and her baby were at great risk from evil spirits. Today, it is more of a feeling of protecting the baby from germs and keeping him safe. At the end of the 40 days, there is a celebration, which only the women family members and friends are invited to. Traditionally, the men were supposed to leave the home – today, they just go and sit in a separate room.
The main focus of the celebration is around the Pogacha. The Pogacha is prepared by a woman relative or friend – the only condition being, that both her parents are alive. After we all drank a drink of wine or whiskey, and wished everyone “Nazdrave” – to health – the Pogacha was covered with a cloth. The women then placed money or traditional coins onto the cloth, and the corners of the cloth were gathered and tied into a tight knot – this was to insure that the baby would not grow up to be a spendthrift. The knotted cloth was then placed out of reach on the top of a cabinet.
At this point, Iva was led to a chair while holding Nicola – a clean cloth was held over her head to catch the crumbs, and 2 women lifted the Pogacha over her head. Again, the parents of these women had to be alive, for them to be part of this ceremony. The bread is then broken on the mother’s head, and pieces are then distributed to the other guests, who offer a blessing to the baby upon receiving the bread.
Along with the Pogacha (which, by the way, was very good!), there were other refreshments served – the usual meats and cheeses, and pastries. The best was the sweet Banitsa with pumpkin and walnuts, which was made by Iva’s 87 year old grandmother. Nicola is her 5th great-grandchild!
We were very excited to be a part of this ceremony, and wish Luca, Iva and baby Nicola, much health and happiness – NAZDRAVE!