Saturday, June 29, 2013

Letter Opener

A paper knife or letter opener is a knife-like object used to open envelopes. Letter openers may be composed of wood, metal, plastic, sometimes even ivory, or a combination of materials.

Pictures below show the buffalo horn letter opener (in the shape of 'kelewang') with silver mount from my collection. It is believed to have originated from the State of Kelantan, Malaysia. The 'kelewang' is a popular traditional single-edged sword from Kelantan.

Length: 17.5cm

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Baby Clothes

This is an interesting post based on the stories my mum told me.

Like most Chinese families, the newly-weds were expected to produce an heir for the family. The pregnancy of the young wife would be an eagerly awaited affair. When a young wife was found to be pregnant, the household would be filled with anticipation and the birth of a child was a landmark event for the family.

Along with pregnancy, the mother-to-be and the family would have to observe customary beliefs and taboos (or 'pantang larang' in Malay). These practices were to help ward off the bad luck. For example, the pregnant wife was not allowed to hold scissors for cutting, ride bicycles or climb a tree, and she was discouraged from going out of the house.

During childbirth, a 'dukun' or mid-wife would be engaged. In the old days, women gave birth in the family home and the 'dukun' would help the mother to deliver the child at home. Doctors would only be called later or if there were any complications during childbirth.

After birth, the 'dukun' would clean and dry the umbilical cord, and this would be kept near the baby as it was believed that it would help if the baby had any difficulty in sleeping. The mother would be cleansed and was not allowed to bath for one month during the confinement. Her needs would be seen to by a confinement lady, who would brew herbal tonics to help strengthen her and massage her daily.

During the one month confinement, the mother would be encased in a 'bengkong' (a cummerbund to wrap tightly around the body). This was to help the mother to shrink her postpartum belly and to get her body back in shape. She was not allowed to bath nor wash her hair during this period. After the one month confinement period, grass herbs would be boiled and the liquid would be used for her first bath since childbirth.

The first month after a child's birth was an important event for the family. Guests would be invited to the house to feast. Among the numerous, the dyed eggs (in red) would be served. Traditionally, the naming of the child would take place during this celebration.

Believe it or not, pictures below are the baby clothes that belongs to me and my siblings. Mum told me it was so called 'custom made' for us by our late grandma and aunt, and I've been keeping it for years. Thank you Ah Ma and Yee Yee.

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Pictures 33 to 36 are the chest and navel covers for infants. These are done Chinese style, like aprons, and worn by babies. Scraps of different material would be sewn together to make these covers.

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