January 21 – Midwife's Day in Bulgaria

Posted on January 21, 2014

Old Midwife's Day in Bulgaria is January 8, according to the Julian calendar—but it is today, January 21, on the Gregorian calendar! 

Also called Babin Den, or Granny's Day, all the babies and women who had used services of the village's midwife that year would visit the baba (the midwife, who is lovingly honored with the title grandmother) with gifts of flowers, food, and/or clothing. There was, in some places and times, a ceremonial washing of the baba at the well or river; and the baba, wearing a necklace made of red chile peppers, does a ceremonial washing of all the babies she has delivered that year.

These days, most Bulgarian babies are born in hospitals, with doctors and nurses rather than midwives. However, at least one source says that many people carry out the old tradition by bringing flowers to the medical personnel who brought them or their children into the world.

That's a nice tradition!

What is a midwife?

For many centuries, midwives have helped deliver babies using the accumulated knowledge from countless midwives and countless years' of experience. Of course, some of that “knowledge” was really just superstitions that were passed down from generation to generation. For example, two things that Bulgarian babas usually did to ensure an easy delivery was to make the sign of the cross three times and to bless the house with incense. Such customs can help people psychologically—a sort of placebo effect—but do not actually do anything to ensure a safe or easy childbirth.

Modern midwives in developed nations might have soothing customs that are well known to help delivering moms focus or relax, but they also have professional training and medical knowledge. They are experts at normal childbirth—whether it occurs in the parents' home or in a childbirth center or in a hospital. They know when things aren't “normal” and more extensive medical help is needed. Many midwives are able to offer help after a baby is born, as well, advising moms about breastfeeding and newborn care.

Also on this date:

Errol Barrow Day in Barbados 

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