Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Fortieth Day

A baby's fortieth day is traditionally celebrated in Turkey for reasons mostly forgotten now. As I've watched my newborn develop over the past few weeks, and have myself felt better and better postpartum, I've come to believe there is ancient truth and wisdom to the forty day "rules."

Sitting on the beach chatting to some ladies, my sister-in-law suddenly realized it was Baby's fortieth day. To celebrate, that evening we made irmik helvasi, a dessert out of semolina. We melted about a pound of butter and stirred a pound of semolina and a pound of sugar into it; then took turns stirring for a half hour, until the semolina was gold
en brown. Everyone -- my husband, my brother-in-law, my husband's nieces and nephews, a neighbour -- took turns stirring, and each time, that person said a prayer, well wishes for Baby's life.

We didn't wait for the helva to cool, pouring it out like liquid pudding onto plates. We topped each puddle of sugary delight with some pecans and cinnamon and dug in.

Deliciousness aside, I found the whole process moving and quite lovely.

p.s. sorry, no pictures ... The few I took made the helva look decidedly unappetizing. Here's one I swiped from the internet.


  1. Cecile,
    What a lovely custom! To have everyone stirring the helva and saying a prayer for baby...very moving.

  2. Yes, and someone else I know collected petals from 40 different kinds of flowers and put them in their baby's bath water!