Jumping Over Babies – El Calocho

After the stresses of the past week, it was nice to see something intriguing this morning:

It was this picture:

This Catholic ceremony takes place on the first Sunday after Corpus Christi each year in the town of Castillo de Murcia near Burgos.  The man who jumps over the top of the babies represents the Devil, and it is said to protect the child.  Any child who has not been ‘jumped over’ will be at risk.  Every baby should be put through this ceremony to protect them, and if a person has not been ‘jumped over’ as a baby, then they can make up for this by jumping through a hoop of fire in later life, in Granada, Spain on the 21st December in what is known as the Hogueras.

It seems like an unexpected way to keep a baby safe.  A man in fancy dress, leaping over babies lying in the middle of the road!  But its a tradition, has been taking place in this way since the 1620s, so that seems to make it OK and a bit of fun.  Place the baby on the hard floor, and have the risk of a large person jump over them, at height and speed, with the risk of landing on them, but faith is a funny thing, and it makes me wonder what else we do to ‘protect’ our children.

One can only image that such a practice done in the comfort of one’s own home, by an adult jumping over a baby (dressed in a costume to look like the Devil) would lead most social workers to have grave concerns about the parent’s abilities to child rear, yet in the context of a religious occasion, it all seems fairly normal. Just imagine young Sophie going to school and telling others how her daddy dresses up each year and then everyone claps and cheers as he runs over the babies!  Imagine there might be a little more than a comment of ‘that’s nice Sophie dear’ from the teacher!!  In the same way that running through a street in Spain, being chased by angry bulls, or throwing rotten tomatoes at each other is also pretty normal, yet we would likely freak out if a person did the same thing on a motorway! As would a nun seeing an apparition of Mary, Mother of God be accepted, but an average Jo seeing Mary would probably be classed as schizophrenic or delusional, as would a person claiming to have seen an alien.  Funny old world!  I’m not against this tradition at all, I just think its odd how something are acceptable in one context, but not another dependent on the social definition of ‘normal’.

Anyway, it got me thinking about other strange child rearing practices, and I’d love to know what others think about them, or if others have similar experiences at all.  When I was working in Tamil Nadu, India, I was surprised at the child rearing practices there, as much as they were no doubt surprised about the practices in Britain.  For example, they don’t give breast milk for the first few months (I think?), but instead give mustard seed oil to help ward off any infections, and this same oil is also used in delivery and for infant massage, though there is some evidence that it can harm low birth weight babies and also break down the skin, especially if it is contaminated oil.  They also don’t name the baby until it is one year old, as they believe that you can’t know its personality until later on.  This has a little sense to it, and I wonder whether it may also have something to do with the high mortality rate of infants somehow?

There are no strange practices or such in Georgia (that I know of as yet), but I have noticed one or two quirks, which always amuse me.  First is that Georgians swaddle their children in one too many layers of clothing, concerned that they will get cold, even when its roasting hot, and are also afraid of children being outdoors in the cold or spending time in the elements.  I can understand about being out in the sun, since I’ve rarely seen anyone use sun lotion here, and since babies struggle to regulate their temperature, I’d likely be more concerned about over heating rather than getting too cold.  I’d be interested to know how many children suffer from dehydration or heat related seizes as a result, and I wonder where this obsession with cold or elements comes from.  Georgians are also fearful of things like ice cream or ice cubes, especially in the winter or when a person has a sore throat.

The Georgian tradition which I was most surprised by, was the first tooth ceremony.  This involves literally showering the baby with sweets when the first tooth arrives, and is certainly an interesting factor in tooth decay prevention (or lack of).  And almost borders on child abuse.  Georgians love sweet things and children munch on sweet and salty things constantly, without much regard for sugar induced decay.  I’ve seen some awful teeth on children, many of whom have not received dental care, and it seems common place for children’s teeth to rot away, especially those who have braces fitted, but then don’t clean their teeth.  Its a huge shame, and makes me sad to see young people without second teeth at such a young age.  There is no habit of teeth brushing, and combined with the high sugar intake or lack of fluoride in the water, many children stand no chance of keeping their teeth.  This is of course a generalisation, not the same for everyone.

So I was super pleased to see this little video of my neighbour Sali, whose mum is a dentist (not sure if you’ll be able to open the link, but here goes: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=374627052578829 

Britain has its strange quirks too, like the dipping of a baby into ice cold water and dressing boys in pretty dresses for the ‘christening’, and I’m sure there are many, many more!

And news just in, from our Patron of OPG Paul Rose:

Good news – Oceans runs again on BBC2. Starts tonight at 7:00pm 🙂

this is the televisions series on which OPG is based!


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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