The tradition of a new father handing out cigars to close friends and relatives is one that has been around for decades, and we even touched upon it in our five fitting occasions for smoking cigars piece. The gifting of cigars to celebrate the birth of their newborn seems to be a tradition that has carried on more prominently in the United States rather than the UK.
But where did the tradition originate from and why has it quietened down in recent years?
Origins of the Gift
As noted in our previous piece, the tradition stems back from the Native Americans who would exchange cigars to celebrate occasions such as birth with a gift-giving ceremony.
The ceremony was called the ‘potlatch’ – pidgin language for “to give away” – and that gift was very often an early version of what we now know to be a cigar. This tradition continued to evolve, and by the 17th century, expectant fathers in America would often be found pacing outside the birthing parlour, anxiously puffing away on a stogie, as they were not allowed to be present during the birth.
Even in the 20th century, many fathers were not allowed in the delivery room (until around the 1970s), so they passed the time smoking with their friends until their bundle of joy arrived.
A book published by Richard K Reed in 2005, entitled Birthing Fathers: The Transformation of Men in American Rites of Birth delved into the history of expectant dads and how they would self-medicate with alcohol while they partners were in labour.
Reed, a professor of sociology and anthropology, wrote in his book: “In an age when smoking and masculinity were intimately linked, nicotine helped men maintain themselves during what could be a long and stressful wait.”
This masculine behaviour would then continue postpartum, where the new father was expected to provide his closest friends with cigars for them to enjoy, regardless of whether they had previously partaken in the activity.
Capitalising on the Trend
By the mid-20th century, many companies had caught on to the tradition and sought to capitalise on it. It wasn’t long before cigar manufacturers were releasing cigars with announcement stickers on them, declaring the gender of the baby with either a pink or blue band.
However, these cigars were mass-produced, meaning they were very poor-quality smokes and something that would be grabbed from the hospital gift shop and probably tossed into the bin shortly after they were received. They were most certainly a long way from the quality, hand-rolled cigars that are more common today.
Since the mid-20th century, things have progressed, and fathers are now a staple in the delivery room with their partners as opposed to smoking a stogie in the waiting room. Instead, the passing of a cigar to those closest to the father would wait a few days, noted as being the father’s re-entry into society.
This ritual seemed to die off for a while, but fortunately, it is making a triumphant comeback. Equally as exciting, it isn’t seen as just for fathers anymore, with more mothers dishing out cigars in the days following the birth of their child or children.
Janelle Rosenfeld, the vice president of marketing for Altadis U.S.A. – the manufacturer behind brands such as Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo – stated that she was one such mother who gifted her friends with cigars following the birth of her baby boy.
Her gift cigar of choice was the classic Montecristo No.2, and she noted that she wasn’t alone in bringing the old tradition back to life again, with many expectant fathers shopping around for stogies: “Today, many of us are returning to familiar traditions, especially the tradition of gifting a cigar to friends at the birth of a baby.”
Jim Young, president of Davidoff of Geneva North America also believes that this custom should be brought back to the forefront, stating: “Many fathers want to mark an incredibly special day by enjoying something special with close friends and family to celebrate.” His cigar of choice? Preferably, the Davidoff Special T.
What do you think of the age-old tradition? And will you be doing the same to celebrate the birth of a new bundle of joy? Let us know in the comments section below or on our social media channels.