What’s in a Name ? I’ll say a whole lot. It could be the beginnings to a great and easy life in kindergarten or it could be worse. Kids can be CRUEL !! One filled with jokes, songs and plays on your name will not be so much fun. I am proud of my 20+ names, although I only know a few of them. Babatunde ( Baba-toon-day) is just one of them. My last name is great one as well, OLUBANDO ( Olu-ban-doh). The origins of it I truly don’t know, but the literal translation is one that is funny, I’ll leave you to ask your Yoruba friends what it means. High school was fun with that !! Good times. In the Yoruba culture, giving a child a name is often a much celebrated event like all cultures. However, there is such pomp and circumstance around it. Technically, the child is not named until 8 days after the live birth. Some must be wondering 8 days !! Yeah no name for 8 days, so everyone comes up with all kinds of universal names to call the child till then. Bobo, mama, baby,… etc. My aunt still call me bobo till this day. There are many reasons why this was done in the past, but I won’t go into it in this post. I’ll however highlight what it covers, after attending the naming ceremony of my cousins daughter this past weekend.
Welcoming a new child into the family in the Yoruba culture is big thing. Depending on how affluent the family is, sometimes streets are even closed to cater to the attendees of the event. Yeah its that big, coming close a close second to weddings. Normally the oldest member of the family is tasked with responsibility of conducting it as Master of Ceremony. Several items are often procured to help carry out the ceremony. Each item has a special significance in the ceremony and in the Yoruba world view. They are used as symbols of hope , expectations and prayers for the parents and their new child. What better way to start life than with the good will and prayers of people who love you, Family. These items are:
- Palm Oil
- Bitter Kola
- Kola Nut
- Dried Fish
The ceremony is often conducted in Yoruba, but here’s a translation of the process. The first that occurs is that prayers are offered by selected attendees and the MC. Once the prayers are done, the MC starts by presenting each item and explaining the significance followed by a prayer for the child. This items are then rubbed on the child and mother’s lips. In some instances today, the items are only rubbed on the mother’s lips.
Water is the first item to be used in the ceremony. Water is a universal solvent and everything in life needs water to survive. The Yorubas also believe that water has no enemy. The child is then blessed it would never be thirsty and like water, it would wouldn’t have any enemies. Palm oil is often used to cook, soothe and lubricate the body. The child is blessed that it would have a smooth and easy life.Bitter Kola is type of bitter nut that is eaten in Nigeria,its very similar to the kola nut. It lasts a long time and like the kola, the child is blessed that it would have a long life. Kola nut is the next item to be used to bless the child. Similar to bitter kola, it is also a nut that is chewed in the Yoruba culture. However, it is often spit out after chewing it to extract the caffeine in it. (PS: it is one of the original ingredients in cola elixir that brought about Coca- cola). The child is blessed that it would repel evil in its life.
Honey and sugar are used sweeteners in almost all cultures known to man. The child is blessed that it would have a sweet and happy life. Pepper ( Atare), is a type of dried pepper,
with loads of seeds in it, what pepper doesn’t have seeds. The child is blessed that it would bear many off-springs like the pepper. What food doesn’t taste better with just a little salt ? Salt is a flavor enhancer. The child is blessed that it’s life would not be ordinary. That its life will be filled with excitement, substance and happiness.
The last item, according to the ceremonies I’ve attended is dried fish. A fish usually finds its way to survive in water, whether rough or calm seas. The child is blessed that it would finds its way in life no matter the hardships that it might face. This concludes the blessings part of the ceremony. Like I mentioned I have over 20 + names. I’ll go into details on how and why. Names in the Yoruba have meanings .
The parents are asked to tell the audience what names they have chosen for the child. Before they say the names, they are asked to place a token(monetary) in basket for the child. During my cousin’s child naming ceremony, her husband placed all his credit cards, his wallet and even his shoe in the basket. That got a laugh from the attendees. Aren’t parents wrapped around their kids fingers ? The names are then repeated by all the attendees. The MC, who is the oldest person in the family then offers her own name for the child accompanied by a monetary token. The next oldest person in the family offers a name along with a token. So you can see how you can get 20+ names. My grandparents ( RIP) called me different names . After everyone has had a chance to give the child a name, the monetary tokens are collected and handed to the parent to open an account for the child. The ceremony is closed with prayers and the food and merriment begins.
Two of the names that my cousin’s daughter was given last week were :
Yetunde –( Yay-toon-day) — which means mother has come back. The feminine version of mine.
Ebun-oluwa –( Eh-boon- oh- loo- wah) — which means God’s gift.
What’s in a name you say ? I say it could be the beginning of a great journey in life.