In Egypt, Sebou' is a celebration held seven days after a child is born, a tradition that dates back to ancient Egyptians.
The word Sebou’, سبوع, which is derived from the Arabic word for the number 7, translates literally into "the seventh day". This joyous occasion is observed by Muslims and Christians alike.
Here are the components of a traditional Egyptian Sebou':
1. Yalla, put the baby in the sieve!
The celebration begins by placing the baby in a big kitchen sieve. The sieve is then shaken with the baby still in it, of course. Finally, sieve and baby are carefully placed on the floor.
2. The Sebou' symphony, featuring kitchen utensils!
With the baby still in the sieve, one of the ladies, typically a family elder, bangs a copper pestle against a mortar.
This is one of the oldest rituals of the Sebou’ ceremony. Some believe that it aids in the development of the baby's hearing, others do it to get the infant familiar with everyday sounds. In the past, some thought that it helped keep evil spirits away.
3. Let the commands begin!
To the beat of the hammering, the women chant commands to the child, demanding his or her obedience to their parents. The women also humorously slip in a few verses urging the baby to obey their mother ... not their father.
4. Stepping over the baby
The women burn incense; the mother steps over the sieve seven times while the ladies repeat: “The first step in the name of God, the second in the name of God..." and so on, to the ongoing sound of banging.
5. Candles are a must at a traditional Sebou
Children used to hold candles and light the way for the mother while she carried her child. Nowadays, they just hold it and walk around the table on which the baby is placed after the seven steps.
6. Sebou' Songs!
Children sing while holding their candles. No Sebou' is complete without dancing and singing to welcome the baby into the world.
Family members carry the baby in the sieve, singing: يا رب يا ربنا تكبر و تبقى قدنا, which translates to “We pray to God that you grow up and become like us.”
7. Sebou' hummus & melabbes
Gift bags are distributed to the guests, particularly the children. The bags contain split chickpeas, Melabbes or (Jordan almonds), nuts, chocolate and small toys.
8. Moghat is the staple drink for Sebou'
Moghat is a popular drink for lactating women as it is really nutritious.
Lactating or not, we don't care, habibi! When you attend our Sebou' you drink Moghat, even if you're a man. Whether in or outside Egypt, Egyptians always try their best to make sure their guests are offered the warm, rich, creamy, and very heavy drink.
9. Lots and lots of gifts to the parents and the baby
The gifts can be clothes for the child, blankets, dainty jewelry, or cash given to the parents to buy what they need.
I still have my Sebou' golden ring till today.
Are any of your Egyptian friends having a baby soon? Make sure you don't miss the Sebou'.