Childbirth Traditions in Armenia

Childbirth traditions in Armenia reflect the central role of family and children in Armenian culture. Some of these historic customs are still observed in Armenia in modified form, while others are no longer practiced.

Historically, Armenians would swaddle their newborns with warm, sifted earth, an act believed to help the child stay warm. The most important event in a child’s life was the day of baptism, which in Armenia was observed eight days after birth. Interestingly, birthdays were not traditionally celebrated.

Armenians strongly believed in the sacred power of the word, and they also wished to have a son who could continue the family business and perpetuate the family name for generations to come. Thus, if several daughters were born into a family, they were often given symbolic names like Bavakan or Herik (meaning “Enough”). If, after much waiting, a family finally welcomed their first son, he was called Pargev (Reward) or Nver (Gift).

Childbirth traditions in Armenia dictated that when a girl was born, the umbilical cord would be buried in the yard of the house, while a boy’s umbilical cord was buried in the courtyard of the church. It was believed that this act could influence the child’s future: the girls would be devoted to the family and the boys would be successful social activists or religious figures.

During the first forty days after the birth of a child, only close relatives were allowed to see the mother and baby. After forty days, everyone was permitted to visit the family and to celebrate with them. The new father would share his happiness with friends and relatives by putting his hand on their head and saying “Tarose kes!”, meaning “I pass it on to you!”