Study Groups consist of 12-16 participants, each of whom research and present a topic of their choice within the scope of the term’s chosen topic. Meeting on consecutive Wednesday mornings, these Groups provide a wonderful opportunity for sharing knowledge amongst friends.

HATCH, MATCH and DISPATCH: Birth, marriage and death customs in Asia
Date & Time: 09 December 2016, 12:00am - 11:59pm

Starting 18 January 2017

Around the world, cultures have developed unique traditions based around three fundamental lifetime milestones:  Birth, marriage, and death.  Whether they are based on the current religion, or on beliefs rooted in the mists of the past, societies often have created very specific sequences of the events they feel need to be followed.  Rituals and ceremonies form an integral part of all of life’s milestones.

Child birth:

We might be surprised to learn that a number of birth rituals from the past have been translated into our modern culture:  The art of midwifery, the practice of massaging the pregnant belly during birth, medicine-free births, and the idea of silence during birth are only a few.  While all moms desire a safe, easy pregnancy, the list of precautions to follow varies significantly across borders.  Rituals and ceremonies anchor our bodies and our experiences to a 'bigger picture’, usually the cultural beliefs and values behind the rituals in question.


Before celebrating the birth of babes, most cultures first celebrate the union of the parents-to-be, and their families.  Marriage traditions are many and diverse.  Who moves in with whom?  Why are tea ceremonies often involved?  Must the groom really bring a roast pig to his future in-laws home?  What do the various dances performed by the couple signify?  And what does rice truly represent?  Looking around Asia, what can you find in common with - or distinct from - your own culture’s wedding traditions?


Death is a regular part of all life.  Many believe that the death is not the end, while others believe it is the end.  Cultures all over the world have numerous traditions concerning death rites, encompassing both the time of death and during burial itself.  Death rites include religious beliefs, characteristics of local culture, but also many prejudices.


You are free to choose any topic relevant to the main theme, but below are a few to inspire you.


Naming customs


Umbilical cord and placenta traditions

Mommy-to-be taboos

Baby carriers in S E Asia (often beautiful textiles)

One child policy in China (past, present and future)



Wedding customs – Peranakan, Shinto, Hindu . . .

Bride price

Arranged marriages



Death-defying, vs death-accepting, vs death-denying beliefs

Death customs of the Toraja (Sulawesi)

Parsi towers of silence

Balinese Ngaben (cremation) ceremony

Qingming Festival

Hindu funeral pyres