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Running head: Portuguese traditions and beliefs

Portuguese Traditions and Beliefs for the Maternity Client


Jennifer Kiaha-Raquino
Kapiolani Community College
December 2015

Portuguese traditions and beliefs

Portuguese Traditions and Beliefs for the Maternity Client


In the 1800s many Portuguese immigrated to escape the poverty of Portugal and their
high taxes. The men of Portugal also wanted to escape eight years of service to the Portugal army
that they were mandated to do (Norden 2015). During that time many of the Portuguese
immigrated to Hawaii and those who did lost their culture the fastest (Norden 2015). I
interviewed a few of my Portuguese friends and family members and they also asked some of
their Portuguese friends and family members. Many of them could not recall or were unsure of
Portuguese specific cultural traditions or beliefs. It seems as if this may be related to the early
immigration to Hawaii and the culture being lost or integrated with other cultures. There was one
person that has a facebook page regarding Portuguese and Hawaiian genealogy and I was able to
get information from her through one of my friends that I interviewed.
Pregnancy
During pregnancy Portuguese believe that wearing necklaces or leis cause the umbilical
cord to wrap around the fetus, particularly the neck causing strangulation. Any jumping or
reaching for objects such as hanging laundry on the clothes line could also cause the umbilical
cord to wrap around the fetus and cause strangulation. According to a facebook interview with
Martin, K.C. (personal communication Dec. 3, 2015), do not wear any tight clothing during
pregnancy because this may cause suffocation of the baby or the baby will be born small also, do
not talk bad about anyone or your baby could be born sick. Some older beliefs that I found came
from Gallop (1961) and he says that a pregnant woman should not sniff flowers because this is
said to cause the baby to be born with disfiguring birthmarks. He also says that a pregnant
woman should not pass beneath a wire since that will cause the child to be born with the

Portuguese traditions and beliefs

umbilical cord around the neck. There are some beliefs about descending downstairs, if the
woman uses the right foot first then a boy will be born and if the left foot is used first then a girl
will be born says Gallop (1961).
Childbirth and Postpartum
When it comes to childbirth and postpartum there are a few beliefs and traditions that I
found in Gallop (1961). They include a method to hasten child birth in which a twisted thread of
red silk is cut into pieces and drank in wine. Another method to hasten childbirth if the woman is
having difficulty is for the husband to lift and turn over a church roof tile. According to Gallop
(1961) once the womans labor pains begin a mans hat is put on the woman until the child is
born. In a study done by Almeida (2007), she found that women are consider to be impure for 40
days after giving birth and cannot enter the church during this time. My personal contacts were
not successful with information on childbirth or postpartum so I researched current healthcare
practices for giving birth in Portugal. I found that according to Angloinfo, the global expat
network, Lisbon (2014) who provides information about the National Healthcare System states
that childbirth usually occurs at a hospital in the area of residency unless specified by the
provider. They also state that water births are available in only two hospitals and are not very
common in Portugal. What is becoming of popularity is non-medical childbirth where medical
interventions are not used but the birth does occur in the hospital or maternity clinic possibly
with a doula.
Care of the Newborn
There is a lot of different Portuguese traditions or beliefs in regards to caring for a
newborn. Some of the older beliefs and traditions I found were in Gallop (1961), they involved
the water in which the child is to be washed. Gallop (1961) says that a cross should be made over

Portuguese traditions and beliefs

the water before using it and once bathing is done if the child is a boy the water must be
discarded outside for the boy to find happiness outside of the home and for a girl the water is
discarded indoors so that she will find happiness in the home. The most recent beliefs and
traditions I could find was from Almeida (2007) in her study the first bath water had to be
discarded in the street, brook, or down the toilet but all in a upwards motion for the child to lose
its fear. Almeida (2007) found that baptism is a strong belief among the Portuguese culture. Until
baptism occurs the child is exposed to evil. The Portuguese believe in something call the evil eye
in which they believe that someone could cast a spell on them by using their eyes (Norden 2015).
Therefore majority of baptisms occurred before the baby is 4 months old and most families avoid
going out with the baby until baptism (Almeida 2007). If the baby has to go out prior to baptism,
extra precautions are taken, salt and a box of matches must accompany the baby, the baby should
wear a medallion held on by a safety pin to protect the him or her (Almeida 2007). Martin, K.C.
(personal communication Dec. 3, 2015) said when someone sees the baby for the first time and
says how cute, you need to say God bless you or the evil eye could be brought upon the
child. Martin, K.C. (personal communication Dec. 3, 2015) also talked about taping a silver
dollar to the navel if its protruding and some mothers will rub oil around the umbilical cord and
wrap a diaper around the belly to prevent the navel from protruding. Another thing I found
interesting come from Angloinfo (2014), there are specific laws regarding the childs name.
There is a maximum of two first names and four surnames that could be given to the child and a
maximum total of six names all together. Surnames can come from mother, father, or any other
relative as long as proof can be given that that is the familys name (Angloinfo, 2014). For first
names, if both parents are Portuguese the first name must come from an approved list
(Angloinfo, 2014). If one parent is not Portuguese the first name can be non-Portuguese but

Portuguese traditions and beliefs

certification may be required to verify the name is authorized in the country the parent came
from (Angloinfo, 2014). If both parents are not Portuguese the name does not have to Portuguese
but certification may be required from the country of the parents (Angloinfo, 2014).
Overall, all the resources I have come across have shown lots of family support towards
the pregnant mother and towards the newborn child. The mother is expected to marry and have
children young and the grandmother helps in providing care. Portugal allows 120 days of
maternity leave if the woman has twins it is extended 30 more days (Angloinfo, 2014). If
breastfeeding the woman can leave work twice a day for an hour each time without affecting her
pay (Angloinfo, 2014). Portugal also provides a subsidy for pregnant woman and their families
starting at 13 weeks pregnant and up to 6 months postpartum, this subsidy will be based on the
womans income (Angloinfo, 2014).
References

Portuguese traditions and beliefs

6
References

Almeida Remoaldo, P.C., Lopes Canteiro, E.E. (2006). Beliefs and traditions related to a childs
first year of life: A study of the north-west of Portugal. Anthropology & Medicine Vol 13,
pp.253-264.
Angloinfo, the global expat network Lisbon. (2014). Having a baby in Portugal. Retrieved from
http://lisbon.angloinfo.com/information/healthcare/pregnancy-birth/
Gallop, R. (1961). Portugal: A book of folk-ways. Cambridge. At the University Press. Retrieved
fromhttps://books.google.com/books?
id=uQ88AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=Myths+and+beliefs+during+pregnancy
+or+childbirth+in+Portugal&source=bl&ots=BSvGYZWJRg&sig=xB0qB2s-PcDSHfia0pX5BPpawo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjhycCmmMXJAhVtpoMKHXJjAUcQ6A
EIUDAH#v=onepage&q=Myths%20and%20beliefs%20during%20pregnancy%20or
%20childbirth%20in%20Portugal&f=false
Martin, K.C. (December 3, 2015). Personal communication via facebook.
Norden, E. (2015) Portuguese americans. Retrieved from
http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Pa-Sp/Portuguese-Americans.html