Agra Hadeeg Teething Party: An Armenian Tradition
What is an Agra Hadeeg Party?
As soon as your baby has cut his/her first tooth, it's time to start inviting your family and friends for an agra hadeeg party. "Agra" means tooth, and "Hadeeg" means kernal (barley or wheat). The agra hadeeg party is a "fun" celebration. The idea is to find out what your baby's future profession will be.
Here's what happens: The baby is seated on the floor and in front of him/her are placed objects symbolic of the field he or she will go into as an adult. Here are some examples/ideas:
- Money - Financial profession or a wealthy person
- Globe - Traveler
- Pencil/Pen - Writer
- Paintbrush - Artist
- Book - Teacher, scholar
- Hairbrush - Beautician or someone in the beauty field
- Wooden spoon - Chef or baker
- Stethoscope or plastic knife - doctor
- Toy Airplane - pilot
- Racing form ---- you get the idea ; )
You can basically put down anything you'd like that will have meaning to you.
So you have your baby seated on the floor with these objects in front of him/her. A yard of tulle or soft netting is held over the baby's head and a little bit of the cooked grain (see below for recipe) is sprinkled over the baby for good luck. Then the baby is encouraged to pick up the object that he's most interested in.
Of course the baby is confused as to what all the hoopla is about. But it's a very joyful day. I mean, who doesn't love babies? And the fun of seeing what they will choose is cause for laughter. And the day doesn't end there. The family will invite the guests to celebrate by having dinner together.
How to Make Hadeeg
In my Armenian-American tradition, the grain used for hadeeg is whole wheat kernals which you can purchase at the middle eastern markets. But in other families, whole barley is used as well, and that is more readily available at the supermarket or grocery. Either way, the texture and symbolism is the same. The little kernals are symbolic of little teeth. And being that the grain swells in volume when cooked, it is symbolic of an abundance of good fortune for the child.
If you're using wheat, soak it overnight for faster preparation. If you're using barley, soaking is not necessary. It's going to expand, so if you want two cups of finished product, use a cup or slightly less.
If you soaked the wheat overnight, drain and rinse it. Boil the grain in clean water until tender. Drain and rinse and allow to cool.
The cooked grain is what you will use to sprinkle on the baby before they reach for the items. And then what you do with it afterward depends on you and your guests.
What I like to do is add some sugar and cinnamon to the wheat or barley and mix it. And then have an array of items that are added by your guests to the hadeeg (like a hadeeg buffet). Traditionally, here's what is added to the hadeeg:
- chopped walnuts or almonds
- raisins or currants
- shredded coconut
- pomegranate seeds
- chopped apple or dates
- sesame seeds
And still others will add veggies to the hadeeg as a healthy salad adding cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon, red onion, olive oil and seasonings. If you go the savory route, do not add sugar and cinnamon.
However you decide to make your hadeeg (wheat or barley, sweet or savory), it doesn't matter. The main idea is to get together with your family and friends and celebrate your beautiful baby, this new milestone and the love that you all share together!
Questions & Answers
Do I bring a present to an Agra Hadeeg party?
Generally speaking, no. You wouldn’t take a gift for an Agra Hadeeg. However, if you have not seen them since the baby was born, I would take something for the baby. If you have, then traditionally, as Armenians, we don’t go to someone’s home empty-handed. So a bottle of wine or flowers is a nice gesture for the host/hostess.