Photo by Roland Freeman

Yoruba Naming Ceremony
Ceremonial foods & items; Festive foods
Reverend Fred Ogunfiditimi

Yoruba people generally believe that when they introduce these materials to the child at the beginning of his life, he will make positive use and not negative use of them when he becomes an adult.

Ceremonial foods and items

Water
As water is very important to people, so must the child be important to his family.
Salt
Salt is important to any food for its palatability. So must the child be to his community. When any person is said to be as salt to his people, it means he brings joy, happiness, and even sweetness where there is bitterness.
Palm Oil
African palm oil is used for a series of medicinal purposes, both positive and negative. This is used for naming the child so that when he grows up, he will make a positive use and not a disuse of it.
Cola nut
Some colanuts have two carpsels, some three, some four some five, and some six which is the highest number of carpsels they can have. Usually we use the one with four carpsels. It is the one with four carpsels that are most usable. They are used for both good and bad medicines. By introducing them to the child, we pray for the child not to use it negatively against anybody neither will anybody use it negatively against him.
Bitter cola
This has the same reason as the colanut above.
Alligator pepper
This also has the same reason and significance of the two above.
Honey
For the child to be as sweet as honey to his community and most importantly for him not to be ostracized by his people when he grows to adulthood.
Wine
Wine brings happiness to people so also shall the child bring happiness to his community at all times
Pen
For the child to use his pen only for good things and not to destroy people with his pen.
Book
To use his position of authority to better the people and not to oppress them. Also the Bible will be introduced to the child so specifically, so that he will read the Bible meaningfully to liberate and not to imprison his people.
Money
Money will be introduced to him so that he will not use or make money in a negative way. Also for him not to allow love of man to overshadow love of God (and man.)

In addition to all these materials used for naming, the parents of the child, particularly the father, still has authority to add more materials to the naming. Such material may include the symbol of the clan deity of that family, for example "Ogun", god of iron. In this case, the parent might like a knife or sword to accompany the material to be used for the naming rituals.

Festive Foods

Here are some Festive foods typically served during the naming ceremony. There are many others depending upon what the parents and grandparents can afford. These foods have no particular special symbolism attached. They are served to guests at the naming ceremony in plates according to individual preferences

Inyan pounded yam, with Okra soup
Rice served with pepper soup
Eba cassava mashed with Egusi soup

Suggested reading on African foods



[African Immigrant Folklife Study project] [CFCH Home]
29 April 1996