Tips for memorable annaprashan ceremony: baby’s first solid feeding ceremony

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Stressing out on what you should prepare for baby's Annaprashan? Don't sweat it, mum. From the ceremony to the menu, our tips will help get you through.

annaprashan ceremony

The annaprashan ceremony or mukhe bhaat, celebrated in a Bengali household

Of all the first-times a baby will experience, tasting the first bite of solid food is probably one of the most exciting milestones to witness as a parent.

To celebrate this transition from liquid (breast milk or formula) to solids, some communities perform the annaprashan ceremony, or the baby’s first solid feeding ceremony. Since annaprashan signifies a marked change in a child’s life, it calls to be celebrated amongst family and elders.

The rituals of this ceremony may be known and performed differently across the regions or communities of the country. The annaprashan is especially popular in the states of West Bengal and Kerela, where it is celebrated with great pomp.

Annaprashan rituals

Mukhe bhaat

In West Bengal, the first solid feeding ceremony or the mukhe bhaat, is usually performed when a girl is in her fifth, seventh or ninth month (odd months) and when a boy is in his sixth, eighth or tenth month (even months). It can be performed anytime from six months until before a child turns one.

The ceremony is performed at home, the temple or a banquet hall depending on the scale of the ceremony. On an auspicious date, the star dish of the annaprashan, the payesh(sweetened rice kheer) is prepared lovingly by the ladies of the house.

A beautiful cloth seat is placed on the floor. Oil lamps are lit to purify the atmosphere. The annaprashan feast is presented on silver plates and bowls, with a silver spoon for the child.

The child, dressed in traditional attire, is seated on the maternal uncle’s lap. After a havan or puja performed for the baby’s health, the child is shown a special fish dish(including the fish head and tail) made for the occassion. His maternal uncle then feeds him a spoon of the payesh. The elders then do the same, and bless the little one to have a healthy, happy, life.

Choroonal

Like the mukhe bhaat, the solid feeding ceremony among Malayalis is also performed on an auspicious date, but in the child’s sixth month. In Kerela, most parents prefer to conduct the annaprashan ceremony in the famous Guruvayoor temple.

On the day of the ceremony, the baby is dressed in traditional attire and is seated on the parents’ lap. A banana leaf full of the food items blessed by the priest is placed in front of the child. Some chandanam (sandalwood paste) is touched to the child’s forehead.

The baby’s father is then asked to dip a gold ring into each of the food items placed on the leaf and touch the ring to the baby’s tongue. The mother and the elders follow suit. The choroonal is usually concluded with thulabharam, where the child is weighed against an offering to be presented to the lord.

Some families in eastern and central India also celebrate the annaprashan, but usually on a small scale.

What to serve during the Annaprashan Ceremony

annaprashan ceremony

The annaprashan feast may include a variety of items, but the sweetened rice kheer is the star dish. Image courtesy: Flickr

Apart from the kheer, fried vegetables, dals, curries and flavoured rice are some of the food items served during an Annaprashan ceremony. Some communities also include meat and fish preparations on the menu.

In the choroonal, sweet payasams, rice, curd, salt, jaggery and banana are served for the baby on the banana leaf.

If you are planning the ceremony at home and will be serving home-cooked food, here are some simple tips you could follow:

  • Do not keep too many items on the menu. Stick to few basics
  • Keep a few non spicy items on the menu if you are expecting a lot of children
  • Soak the rice of the kheer/payasam and the dals for the lentil curries (if any) for a few hours before the ceremony so that they cook faster
  • If you will be serving non-vegetarian items in the spread, inform your seller in advance so that you get a fresh stock

Food safety precautions you shouldn't ignore:

  • Meet your baby's paediatrician beforehand to ask which foods can be safely introduced.
  • Rice is generally considered a safe first food. If you decide to give the kheer a miss, you may alternatively keep only plain, boiled rice or rice with dal as the offering.
  • Ensure the food is prepared in hygienic conditions and the baby is fed with clean hands.
  • Feed the baby, not more than two teaspoons of the offering to avoid an upset tummy.

Tips for a memorable first solid food ceremony

You could liven up your baby's Annaprashan ceremony and make it an interesting event for the entire family with these tips:

  • Send a colourful, well-worded invite with your baby's picture to all the guests. You could print out the invite on a banana leaf shaped card, for example. Placing your baby’s palm print on the invite could give the invitation a personal touch.
  • Hire a photographer. This way you can focus more on your baby and not worry about capturing those precious moments. If your budget is tight, ask a relative or friend to capture the entire proceedings for keeps.
  • Invite guests to pen down their well wishes for the baby in a guest book. It will especially be wonderful to read the messages in the future with your child when he is older.
  • If you are keen on giving return gifts, arrange small baskets of sweets, chocolates or dried fruits with a thank you card. Personalised cups and spoons which symbolise the Annaprashan are some delightful ideas.

Continue Reading for some additional tips for a worry-free Annaprashan ceremony

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