First period rituals are used to recognize the step into adulthood. Family and community members take part in rituals often based on their culture. Some are celebrations, while others are exclusionary.
My First Period Ritual
When I had my first period, my mother did what her mother did to her – she slapped me across my face. It wasn’t a real slap, but rather a tap that didn’t hurt. She explained that it was a Jewish tradition to bring the blood and color back to my cheek. Since then I’ve learned that this slap is a custom without any basis in Jewish law.
The slap didn’t bother me though since my mother mentioned becoming a woman. At the age of 12, I felt proud even though I had no control over becoming so mature. I continued this first period ritual with both of my daughters.
First Period Rituals in Other Countries
In India first period rituals contain both parties and separation of the girl from others. The celebration is often shared with other girls in the community where they wear new clothes and receive many gifts. Menstruation isn’t mentioned though; in fact it is a coming of age party announcing that the girl is ready for marriage.
In some parts of India, these girls stay in separate huts until their period is over. They cannot touch food that others will eat and must rest. This may continue into adulthood.
Ghana also secludes girls who have had their first periods. During this time, women teach them about sex, marriage and even birth control. Then the party begins. The chief and community attend. There is dancing and young men come to meet their perspective wives. Their first period ritual is based on education and purity – females must remain a virgin before marriage.
First Period Celebrations
In the United States, there is a move towards celebrating first periods. This can help with the acceptance of menstruation, instead of calling it the curse, for example. For some guidance with this there are kits and books:
Do you have any first period rituals for your daughters?
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