Sana’a: The 40-day Al-Wilad birth celebration [Archives:2007/1055/Culture]

May 31 2007

Fatima Al-Ajel
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Yemeni women have their own celebrations and occasions to share among themselves, practicing traditional customs and heritage in their daily life as daily rituals during such occasions.

Since giving birth is considered a big and important event in a Yemeni family, they must hold a big celebration for such an event. In Sana'a and other Yemeni governorates, women celebrate a new birth in a specific manner by holding a continuous 40-day party called Al-Wilad.

Al-Wilad is full of activities and exciting events arranged by the families of the new mother and her husband. Every household must spend time preparing for such a celebration, but mostly the same events and activities are performed during the festivities

Al-Wilad requires much preparation from the parents of the new baby. Within days of having a baby, the celebration begins with simple parties. Actually, Al-Wilad goes according to the activities arranged for the party, which are ordered as follows:

Al-Faraha Week

The first days within having a new baby are called Al-Faraha Week, during which only close neighbors and relatives of the new mother, or Al-Walidah, visit her. It's a short visit wherein visitors express their happiness for her following her delivery.

Actually, Al-Faraha visits are short because women understand the new mother's condition after delivery and that she can't host them for a long time. During Al-Faraha, visitors give the new mother money as an expression of happiness and to help with the expenses of Al-Wilad party.

Visitors to the new mother must perform Al-Zagarad when entering the new mother's room. Considered a tradition in Sana'a, as well as its surrounding areas, there's a rule about doing it according to the baby's gender If the baby is a boy, the visitor must perform Al-Zagarad three times consecutively, whereas if it's a girl, once is sufficient. The second week of Al-Wilad is distinguished by more events, during which the new mother hosts guests until magrib When she's able to host guests, her family prepares a small, simply designed room.

The formal activities and events of Al-Wilad party will begin after the second week of the celebration. According to Sana'ani custom, the new mother goes with her friends to a hammam or steam bath from the early morning while her mother-in-law and some of her neighbors complete the final preparations for the big afternoon party.

The day before taking her to the steam bath, her family arranges the largest room in the house for the big party. This place is called the diwan or Makan Al-Wilad.

Al-Martabah is a special high place for the new mother which requires more efforts to arrange in a nice way. The new mother sits on the high place, which looks like a throne, in a corner of the diwan. Traditional weapons, kitchen earthenware and fabric are used to design the Makan Al-Wilad

The new mother must enter the Makan Al-Wilad with Al-Mawlid procession, which is distinguished by singing religious songs in a happy atmosphere. Attendees participate in the mawlid procession by doing Al-Zagarad.Once she arrives, Al-Walidah is treated like a queen and everyone is ready to serve her.

Formal visits

After she enters the room, friends, relatives or neighbors begin tea parties for her named Al-Ban or Al-Zearah, arranging such parties with her family. Some host the attendees, called Mutafrataat, by serving cakes, while others invite a singer to sing at Al-Wilad.

The party involves a special visit from Al-Walidah's family, which must present her with expensive gifts. The Mutafrataat actually wait to see what type of gifts her family gives her. During her family's visit, Al-Walidah's mother shows the gifts to all of the Mutafrataat to satisfy their curiosity.

Al-Wilad activities

In a humorous atmosphere, some attendees like to do activities such as performing a sketch, imitating other attendees or telling jokes, while other visitors prefer to present religious lectures. Basically at such gatherings, women like to talk about new neighborhood events, political and social issues. If something happens in a neighborhood or area, they discuss it during daily occasions such as Al-Wilad.

A wonderful folklore fashion show

Yemeni women still retain their traditional customs, mixing traditional clothing with new modern fashions as a type of pride in their heritage.

On the first day when Al-Walidah enters the Makan Al-Wilad, she wears the most beautiful traditional clothing with silver and flowers on her head. Also, most of the Mutafrataat wear all of their decoration when attending Al-Wilad party, especially during the last part of the celebration. Al-Walidah wears different traditional clothing every day and acts like a queen who ascends her throne and welcomes her guests.

After 40 days of celebrating, Al-Wilad concludes with a big tea party on Al-Wafa' or the final day, which the mother-in-law announces to all relatives, neighbors and friends. For this day, Al-Walidah decorates her body with naksh or henna and the Mutafrataat pray for her to have a healthy and nice life.