Baby Contextualization

Chinese and Western cultures have some similar customs surrounding childbirth. One of these is a postpartum confinement period traditionally observed by the mother, who bonds with her child and recovers at home, without having sex, for 30 days in Chinese culture and for 40 days in Western Christendom, the latter ended by a churching, in memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s purification after childbirth and presentation of Jesus at the Temple after forty days (Lk 2.22–40), which marks the mother’s reintegration into church life after confinement.

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, depicted in the St Albans Psalter.

The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, depicted in the St Albans Psalter.

Chinese parents often have a full-month celebration (滿月, or 彌月) thirty days after the birth of their child, a custom that seems appropriately combined with the churching of the mother: we can give thanks first that the mother has survived the dangers of childbirth that have come with the Fall, then that a child born by the grace of God has come into the world after weeks of confinement.

Perhaps it’s fitting in Chinese culture to church the mother and full-moon the child at thirty days; the child could be baptized immediately after his mother’s churching, and then the full-month party could follow after the end of the service. Despite the useful symbolism of baptism eight days from natural birth, I think thirty days is a more satisfactory solution in a Chinese setting: it allows the mother to be present at her child’s baptism at church while also not forcing the mother out of the house a mere eight days from delivery, and it synchronizes the churching and baptism with Chinese customs.

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One response to “Baby Contextualization

  1. Pingback: Hong Kong Book of Common Prayer: No Churching of Women | Cogito, Credo, Petam

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