Outdooring and naming


Outdooring new babies is a ceremony typical amongst almost all tribes in Ghana and involves the practice of formally presenting a new-born child to the gods, society and dead ancestors. It usually takes place on the 8th day after birth, when it is thought that enough time has elapsed for the child to prove that it is healthy and has the will to continue living. Until then, custom does not permit the new-born to be brought outside the threshold of its abode. In days gone by; and even now in many communities, evil spirits, ghosts and other negative influences in the elements were believed to adversely affect the health of the child. The 8th day is thus the time to give thanks to all those who deserve it. Relatives, mostly sisters and friends of the child’s father are invited for the ceremony. One of the respectable people present would be called upon to pour libation to God through the gods and dead ancestors, thanking them for their protection and benevolence. The baby is carried into the open for the first time and formally introduced to the elements: wind, earth, firmament and all unseen living things.

Very important and still of significance in society is the naming ceremony. This can take place independent of the outdooring ceremony; if a child’s parents so wish. Otherwise, it is often joined to the Outdooring ceremony already described above.

According to Ghanaian custom, every child must get at least a second name in addition to the day names like Kobina, Kojo, Kofi, Akosua, Ama, Esi etc. The second name is often that of a respected relative, dead or alive and helps in tracing genealogy. Sometimes the names of unrelated people of great standing in the society are chosen as a sign of reverence. Confusing to foreigners is the fact that children may not necessarily bear the names of their parents. The belief is that is that a child will take over all the positive qualities of the personality he/she is named after.

Both the Outdooring and Naming ceremonies are relatively short and simple but what then follows can be described as being typical: sumptuous food is served and there is usually more than enough to drink. Music and dance take their due place of prominence. Attendees of such functions may bring along presents for the child or simply donate money. On such occasions, it is usual for people to dress up in their best traditional attire.

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