What do you dress a six-month old in for a funeral?

funeral in Lebanon

wardrobe worries

What do you dress a six-month old in for a funeral? Sadly, several friends have lost family members in the time we have been here in Lebanon. Since we did not know the people personally we stayed away at first. In our culture mourning is something done in private with close family and we had no intention of imposing ourselves at such a difficult time. But in the Levant the custom is for those mourning to surround themselves with as many people as possible in the days directly after the death. The bigger the turnout, the more supported they feel.

So recently, when we learnt of more sad news, we immediately changed our plans to be able to pass by and pay our respects. I knew by now that head to toe black was de rigueur, and I was eager to take my blue coat off once in out of the rain.

The dilemma was the baby. Unlike some baby girls her wardrobe isn’t all pink, and she does have some more solemn bits and pieces. I briefly wondered if I should dress her in dark clothes, but then feared the opposite reaction: that people would say, Haram, a baby in black, that’s bad luck. Though superstition means nothing to me I did want to avoid making a faux pas at a delicate time. So instead I dressed her in neutral colours, replacing the red cardigan with a white one in the hope that would be the most suitable option.

Once we arrived we went, as is the custom, to express our condolences to the bereaved, who were seated all together. Before we reached them, more than one set of arms reached out for the baby. I gladly left her with a friend and returned to pick her up later. I did notice there were no children present, but I was expecting that. In the East like in the West, people do not always want to laden their children with sadness too early, and without them they can make themselves more available to support the family in mourning. And no doubt everybody but us had relatives nearby who could babysit.

But I remembered when an acquaintance dropped off a package at the home, but refused to come up to the flat. She said she wouldn’t because of the baby, as she was on her way back from funeral and was dressed in black. And I suppose that is why, although the family-friendly Lebanese always do offer to carry the baby, there was a note of duty in those arms that relieved me of her before I approached the bereaved family. A baby shouldn’t go that close to death, they seemed to say.

So what do you dress a six-month old in for a funeral? It’s a trick question. You leave her with someone else, and they’ll find another time to visit the family over the three days of public mourning.

5 Responses to “What do you dress a six-month old in for a funeral?”

  1. nicolette says:

    Yep, learned this the hard way when I took our baby to pay condolences once. After getting lots of looks someone finally pulled me aside and told me “here in Lebanon, we don’t usually let children experience the sadness.”

    • We had people tell us it made a nice change to see a baby, but it clearly isn’t the done thing! Obviously she wasn’t affected by the sadness of the (brief) event, at six months, but I guess abiding by such customs shows that you really take the event seriously.

  2. Liliane says:

    Babies and small kids don’t come with us to funerals or 3 days after it. The only young kids that are there are usually the ones who are really close to the family by 1 degree, and sometimes even they don’t attend

    • So from what age would it be appropriate to take a child Liliane? Early teens?

      • nicolette says:

        Curious as well, Liliane!

        A few years ago, a few of the girls in the children’s home I worked in lost their father to a sudden heart attack. It was decided that they would not be sent home for the funeral. In fact, they weren’t even told of his death until a few weeks later when it was time for them to go visit their families. They were 12, 8 and 5 years old at the time.

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