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Lesley and Jan in Palau

First Birth Ceremony

PALAU | Friday, 5 December 2014 | Views [3426] | Comments [1]

The mother is presented

The mother is presented

Palau is a matrilineal society and the key ceremony here involves women.  When a woman has her first baby she undergoes a special cleansing ceremony.  It's a bit like a spa voucher with benefits!  For up to 9 days (depending on her clan) she is bathed with coconut oil, herbs and tumeric.  The idea is to relax and spoil the new mother ready to take on the rigours of motherhood.

At the end she is dressed in a traditional outfit including a grass (often plastic!) skirt and a headdress made of tropic bird feathers.  She is then led out to raucous crowds and music.  The women relatives dance around her and present her with money.  This goes on until everyone has had their turn.  The elder ladies wash her feet with special leaves.  (More pics in Culture and history of Palau).

It looks fantastic but really tiring.  As a local mother told me she just couldn't wait for everyone to leave so she could have a shower and get rid of all the oil!



The traditionally dyed grass skirts are made with with wild hibiscus bark and dyed which makes them very expensive to produce. A family with no grass skirt maynuse yarn as a substitute for traditional fibers which takes months to prepare. I lived in Palau and im Palauan and im pretty sure no one uses plastic for grass skirts. These are ceremonies that show love to the new mother so i guess you had a different experience with a different family. Usually the chiefly families are given more days(up to 10 days) and are using traditional dresses that are treasured and inhereted through generations whilst lowly and modest families are given a 5 day bath and less decor. Just letting you know that every Palauan woman that gives birth and experiences this practice at different levels depending on their familys status and situation. Its been like that since ancient times with modernizations come new traditions like live bands and american money but the concept of love, appreciation, gratefulness and celebration for the new mother remains the focal point. Thankyou

  ikl mau Jun 17, 2019 3:47 AM

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