First Laugh Ceremony

The Navajo have a unique tradition which sums up everything good and noble about us humans. 

When a baby is born, it is regarded as the ultimate, precious gift and must never be abused. From the moment of birth, the child is watched over continuously by family and friends, who patiently wait for the child’s first… laugh. 

Why do they do this? 

See if you can guess the answer. 

(Hint: It’s not to see if the baby is a good future audience for Navajo Comedy Clubs….) 

It’s because the baby’s first laugh marks its birth as a social being. 

That….is beautiful. And so is what happens next. 

Whichever brother, sister, parent, cousin, aunt, uncle, or passing acquaintance is present at the first laugh is deemed to have caused it. (Even if he or she is not commonly considered comical.) The laughter instigator then receives the honored privilege of preparing a special ceremony to welcome the child into society. 

(It’s also believed the infant takes on some of the traits of this person. So all new parents might want to give some thought to “who’s minding the baby.”) 

The First Laugh Ceremony is a party where guests bearing plates of freshly cooked food slowly pass in front of the new, first-time laughing child. They do not do this to tempt the infant with appetizing aromas of fry bread and pinto beans. Quite the opposite. 

The baby (with some help, of course) places a pinch of salt on the food of each person as a symbolic act of generosity. The salt is said to rekindle and sustain the goodness in each recipient, and is considered the first in a lifetime of generous acts by the child. 

This inspiring tradition has a few lessons for us: 

  1. We’re social beings, thriving mainly in the company and support of others. 

  2. Generosity is a noble virtue, best instilled from birth. 

  3. Opportunities to celebrate generosity remind us of and regenerate our goodness. 

  4. An act of kindness raises the endorphins of not only the receiver, but also of the giver, and of everyone who witnesses it. 

  5. Genuine, heartfelt laughter is an act of generosity! 

Celebrating laughter and generosity is a suspiciously healthy activity any time, but especially when the stress gremlins are lurking. 

I might humbly suggest, at the very least, a party.

“Laughter,” said Victor Borge, “is the shortest distance between two people.” 

Update: According to the author of the Worldwords book, the name for the ceremony is “childelgo.”

If I can help your organization celebrate (and de-stress!) with a Healthy Dose Of Music And Laughter, please feel free to get in touch. 

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© 2009 Greg Tamblyn

 

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