Caribbean Thoughts

by Carol Mitchell

Celebration of Life – Part 1

Last Friday, I invited a Ghanaian friend to accompany me to an event on Sunday.

“I can’t go this Sunday, I am going to an outdooring,” was her reply.

“A what?” I asked, sure I had misheard.

“An ‘outdooring'” she repeated.

An outdooring ceremony (also called a naming ceremony) is a Ghanaian tradition, at which a newborn child is officially introduced to family and friends and in some cases officially given a Christian name. It is very similar to a Christening.

The practice began because of high infant mortality rates. Newborns were traditionally first given a name based on the day of the week on which they were born (see below). This would be the name on the birth certificate. After seven days, when the parents were sure that the child’s spirit was indeed intended for this world, the baby would be given their Christian name. This name is officially announced during the outdooring ceremony, so-called because in the days before hospitals it was the first time that the child was taken outdoors.

A Ghanaian acquaintance of mine recently had a baby and told me that the first time his wife knew the child’s name was when he announced it at the outdooring.

The birth certificate will then be amended to include the Christian name.

A priest blesses the baby with water (the source of all life), honey (so the child receives sweet things in life) and salt (for preservation). After the religious ceremony, the adults are invited to celebrate with the family, giving gifts, money and so on.

The importance of this event apparently varies according to tribe. For example, depending on the financial situation of the family, and sometimes despite their financial situation, people of the Ga tribe may have an outdooring on the scale of a large wedding. For the Ashanti people, the funerals are of much more significance (Celebration of life – Part Two) and outdoorings tend to be small events to which only family are invited.

Traditional Day Names

Weekday Boys Girls
Monday Kojo Adwoa
Tuesday Kwabená Abenaa
Wednesday Kwakú Akua
Thursday Yaw Yaa
Friday Kofí Afia
Saturday Kwámè Ámma
Sunday Akwasí Akosua

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