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Getting There is Half the Fun

One of the men I work with at our office has a new baby in their home.  This is their second child and their first girl.  In the culture here, the name is not given at birth, but later on the 8th day. As I understand it, when the child is born at the hospital, the name is required for the birth certificate.  Since it is the religious leader who gives the name, not the parents, the dad will ask the leader for the name so it can go on the certificate, but only the dad and the leader know the name.  Everybody else, including the mom, is kept in the dark until the 8th day.  More modern parents are now more involved in deciding the name and the mom may know ahead of time.  But in general the name is still kept secret until the 8th day.  Our friend's wife had the baby by C-section and wasn't up to having the naming ceremony on the 8th day so they actually had it almost two weeks later.

Usually the naming ceremony is held at the home of the family, but some Christians are having theirs done at churches now.  So Sunday morning found us up bright and early to go to this naming ceremony at our friend's house.  John couldn't go since he had to get to church on time since he was doing a worship survey there.  So I went with our neighbors and another missionary followed behind on his motorcycle.

The directions were pretty clear.....up to a point.  We followed a main road along until we came to a restaurant where we'd all eaten.  We knew we were supposed to turn left there.  Then we were supposed to "look for the two garbey nya trees in the middle of the road."  Right away we spotted the two gao trees, so that was good.  Then the directions were "not the first left, but then you'll turn left and you'll see a gao tree and my house is right by that."  So, we took the 2nd left and drove for awhile and sure enough, there was the naming ceremony.  We got out and went up.  I said, "Let's go in and see the baby", but then our friend on the motorcycle went up and came back soon saying, "This isn't it.  They've got mats out to do M[s]im prayers and I don't recognize anybody."  Woops.

So, we got back in the truck and headed on our way.  By the time we left there, another missionary family had joined our little entourage of vehicles looking for the naming ceremony.  This time though we called the new dad to get directions.  His key direction he added was "turn left when you see the red 4x4 vehicle."  It wasn't long before we saw the red 4x4 and turned there.  Sure enough, there was the naming ceremony.  So we all got out and walked up.  Once again our friend scoped it out, came back and said, "This isn't it.  They've got mats out to do M[s]im prayers and I don't recognize anybody."  Ha! ha!  By now we've also gained in our entourage a motorcycle of two Nigerien guys also looking for the same naming ceremony we were looking for.  They said, "Follow us!  We're pretty sure we know where it is."

So off we went again.  This time the naming ceremony we ended up at was the right one.  We were joking how we could get dressed up every Sunday morning and go around visiting naming ceremonies and getting free breakfasts!

In the naming ceremonies we went to where we used to live, the mom and baby always stayed inside.  But at Christian naming ceremonies, the mom and baby come outside and sit with the dad and other children on a comfortable sofa while the pastor gives a message and announces the name. (I lifted this picture from a friend's facebook page, but I think it's from the official photographer.)   
This baby's name is Tabitha.  Isn't she a doll?

Once the name is announced, the mom and baby go back in the house and food is served.  First kola nut and dates are handed out.  These are a traditional sign of friendship.  Then bags of popcorn and sometimes pieces of candy or bags of chips are handed out.  I've discovered that at Hausa naming ceremonies they give out a traditional honey covered pastry that is just delicious.  It's a lot like baklava.  Here I am enjoying my honeyed treat.  My friend, Enseoung took a picture of one of these treats at another naming ceremony and she's allowed me to use her photo here to show you up-close what it looks like.  

They also usually serve meat and sauce with bread to eat it with.  

(Where we used to live they only served the dates and goro and popcorn....they were too poor to put on two meals so the noon meal was the only one they served.)  I'm not sure if serving food for breakfast is a Niamey tradition or a Hausa tradition or a income-based tradition.

Other un-invited guests show up such as the old lady who came up to me begging.  I offered her some of my honey treat, but she said, no, she wanted money.  I was relieved as I didn't really want her to take my treat!  The owner of this tea cart is also a neighborhood fellow who was probably not officially invited.  This set-up is pretty clever as he's made a brazier out of an old milk powder can into which he puts hot charcoal.  The tea kettle was steaming away and he was waiting for customers to buy a cup of hot tea.  He also deals in cigarettes, which, by the way, you can buy one at a time when you need a smoke.  There's no need to buy a full pack.

Naming ceremonies are a great time to hang out with friends.  And getting there is so much fun I might just try to find a few to attend again next weekend!  I just need to make sure they're serving the honey treat.


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