Childbirth customs in a changed scenery: migrants and their cultural demenour

Comunicare susținută la conferinţa „City Rituals”. 13th bi-annual conference of The Ritual Year Working Group (SIEF), organizată de Societatea Internaţională de Etnologie şi Folclor, în colaborare cu  Institutul de Etnografie şi Folclor „C. Brăiloiu”, Institutul de Studii Sud-Est Europene, Academia Română,  Muzeul Naţional al Ţăranului Român, în Bucureşti, România, 7-9 noiembrie 2018.


Romania is still characterized by a rural type of society where traditional knowledge prevails. When
confronted by a completely different social setting (in towns from Romania or from host
countries), people tend to develop a closer relationship with the customs and superstitions they
learned about while being at home. The paper uses data gathered as part of the research for
“Migration and identity” project from The Romanian Academy, Iași Branch. The informants
described childbirth beliefs and customs as a performance that reinforced their cultural origins.
Moreover, the study conveys the conclusions of a previous project that studied urbanites in a
comparative manner.
The most striking example of a ritual adaptation to the urban environment consists in offering a
towel and soap to doctors and nurses from maternity hospitals, in order to maintain the practice
performed while giving birth at home more that half a century ago. Midwives are also celebrated in
other Balkan countries on a specific day from the calendar (January the 8th). Nevertheless, the
Romanian women continue to make the ritual gesture, immediately after the birth, and most of
the time the reason is limited to cultural pressure.
The third database used in this paper is provided by The Folklore Archive of Moldavia and
Bucovina, which was founded in 1970. The information creates a relevant time background for the
present form of rituals