Just five days left in Palembang, and I’m still having new experiences every day. Well, not every day, but close.
This weekend I went to a Marhabah celebration at Rudi’s family’s house. As a reminder, Rudi is another English teacher at my school.
The marhabah is a sort of Muslim baptismal ceremony. The word literally means “welcome” in Arabic, so Rudi says it’s a sort of official “welcome to the family” event. Yenni, another teacher at my school who recently had a baby, told me about it, but I didn’t know I was going to get to see one!
Seven days after a baby is born, its parents are supposed to cut off all of its hair. Then they weigh the hair and give an appropriate amount of money to an orphanage. According to Yenni, one gram of hair = one million rupiah, or a little more than $100. So if your baby has a full head of hair, you might end up paying upwards of $400.
Technically, that’s when you’re supposed to have the ceremony, too—when the baby is a week old. But most people cut the baby’s hair off at a week and wait to have the ceremony until later. Yenni says they “get too busy.”
The ceremony at Rudi’s house was a sort of double marhabah, because they were blessing two two-month old baby girls in the family. The baby’s uncle holds him or her and parades the baby around the house for the family to see. The whole time, men in the family are banging wildly on drums and someone else passes around a canister filled with small bills for people to grab and keep.
The family must also sacrifice a lamb or goat: one if the baby is a girl, and two if the baby is a boy. (Grumble grumble.) Because there were two baby girls at Rudi’s house, his family had sacrificed one goat and one lamb.
Even though the baby’s hair was cut and weighed almost nine weeks before the ceremony, the important men in the family each took a turn and snipped off some as part of the ritual. The day is also significant because it’s when the babies officially receive their names, even though they’ve been called by them since they were born.
Rudi was so proud of his niece; it was a really special day, and I’m glad they shared it with me.