The First Laugh Ceremony: A Joyful Navajo Celebration of Family
A baby’s first laugh is a joyful and no doubt reassuring sign to parents and family members that this child is healthy, happy and on the way to a successful life. Cultures around the world mark this milestone in different ways, sometimes with ceremonies, blessings or family parties. The Navajo, or Diné, consider a baby’s first laugh to signify that the child is transcending its spiritual existence and is ready to live with its family in the physical world.
A baby’s first laugh in traditional Navajo culture
Navajo belief holds that newborn babies first reside in the world of Diyin Diné, the Holy People. The Diyin Diné are the first people, subjects of the most important myths and stories in Navajo culture. When a new life comes forth, the Navajo believe the baby resides in both our physical, earthly world, and the spirit world. A baby’s first laugh is a sign that the child is moving away the spirit world and wants join his or her earthly family.
Because of the significance that a baby’s first laugh holds in Navajo tradition, family members watch, wait and listen to hear that first utterance of a giggle. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents and more may try just about anything to get that first laugh, from silly faces to tickles and everything in between.
The person who is able to make that baby laugh for the first time plays a very special role in the celebration. He or she is honored as the organizer of A’wee Chi’deedloh, The First Laugh Ceremony, where family from far and wide is invited to large party, celebrating the baby’s life and welcoming this new life into the family and larger community.
The Navajo’s First Laugh Ceremony is usually held within a week of the laugh’s occurrence. The baby’s parents and the family member, friend or neighbor who made the child laugh start planning for the party immediately, preparing food, inviting family and friends from all over and creating gift bags for each guest.
During the First Laugh celebration, the baby is considered the host. With the help of his or her parents, the baby ceremonially gives each guest a plate of food, rock salt and a gift bag of goodies, per Navajo tradition.
Like other cultures throughout the world, the Navajo mark a baby’s first laugh as a major milestone in their life. The act of passing through the spirit world where the Diyin Diné, the Holy People reside and into the physical world to be with one’s family and clan is a sacred and joyful event. The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration of life, family, and above all, love. Welcome, baby!