Rituals in all countries are an amazing combination of pagan beliefs, magic, folklore, and religion. Sometimes the rites involved can be dangerous, but nevertheless, they have continued to be honored over the years. Some rites date back many centuries. Rituals have become part of the heritage of an entire nation, and hold deep meaning to the people of that nation.
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Rody’s parents come from Barcelona, and he knows a lot about Spanish rites. He asserts that one of the most unusual and dangerous rites in Spain, dating back to the beginning of the seventeenth century, is El Colacho, which involves jumping over newborn children. One of the Spanish men dresses up in a bright red and yellow costume and wears a mask of the devil – El Colacho (Galván, 2014). He bears a heavy responsibility because the health and safety of infant children depend on the strength of his legs and his coordination. El Colacho’s role is to jump over all the children who were born after the last celebration (Galván, 2014). Parents of children put their babies on blankets—and the devil jumps.
In fact, the purpose of this rite is to protect newborn babies from evil. It is believed that when the devil jumps over a baby, it gives the child life-long protection against the evil eye, illnesses, and evil spirits. The local fraternity Santísima Sacramento de Minerva monitors whether all the rituals have been followed correctly. Although this kind of cultural practice seems dangerous, no child has ever been harmed over the course of almost four hundred years.
Unlike the Spanish El Colacho, the Russian rite narrated by Sasha describes a holy tradition. Russian parents who wanted to protect their newborn baby tried to attach the child to the Christian faith as soon as possible. Parents carried the child to the church, where the priest baptized him or her with water (Bremer & Gritsch, 2013). After that, the child was given a name to be known only to family members. It was believed that this name would be spiritual, and the evil one would not be able to take away the child by calling him or her by this name given at birth.
According to the old tradition, children were given the name of one of the saints. Before the actual ceremony, the father showed the baby to heaven and the rising sun, then to the moon and fire, then to the Earth, and finally bathed the baby. Traditional attributes of baptism were a shirt, towel, baptismal cross, and a few candles. After the christening, the godmother had to bathe the child in a tub filled with running water, and then dress him or her up in the father’s or mother’s cut shirt. Godparents gave the godson or goddaughter an icon and a cross, which the baby would wear throughout life. Also, godparents brought gifts to the child, such as, icons or spiritual literature. After giving presents, they invited relatives to share food with them. This rite helped people feel secure and strengthened family ties.
National customs and rites that have been passed down from generation to generation, harmoniously combine folk, religious and pagan beliefs, both sad and cheerful heritage. They reflect the main stages of human life throughout centuries. By learning traditions of other countries, people can better understand other cultures. National culture distinguishes people from other nationalities and reinforces their identity.
Bremer, T., & Gritsch, E.W. (2013). Cross and Kremlin: A brief history of the orthodox church in Russia. Grand Rapids, MI: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
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Galván, J.A. (2014). They Do What? A cultural encyclopedia of extraordinary and exotic customs from around the world: A cultural encyclopedia of extraordinary and exotic customs from around the world. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.