At around 6 months of age, a Nepali baby will undergo a special ceremony similar to a baptism but very tied to local traditions and religious beliefs. It’s the first rice ceremony and it’s a big deal in Nepal – certainly something you should attend if you receive an invite.
Friends and family dress in their best to celebrate the child’s first time eating solid food (which is rice in their culture). Each of the guests also bring along gifts and money for the child. According to Culture Smart‘s guide to Nepal, “the baby is expected to receive a spoonful of rice from each guest”. I must have missed that part of the rice-feeding but it was still quite an honor to be invited to one of my students’, Kiran’s (also a 27-year-old father of three), child’s rice-feeding celebration in the remote village of Chogaun.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was how quiet the village was that day as I made my regular trek up the mountain. Normally, I’d run into a few of my students along the way to the village but everyone was instead crowded under the colorful tents and makeshift party space. I was graciously welcomed and guided into the tent by my two students (and brothers), Tshiring and Pemba, who’d arrived a bit earlier to the festivities.
There were chairs all across the tent area and a long line of food. As it was a special occasion, meat was on the menu and I tried out a bit of the chicken (which tends to be cooked in small pieces with the bones so mind how you chew to avoid cracking your teeth). After we’d had a bite, the baby was back from a nap in the house and I had a chance to see the little guy with his mother receiving gifts from guests. The child, having had a tiring day obviously, was fast asleep but the family was beaming.
Below are some of the photographs taken that day to set the mood of this colorful Nepali tradition: