The word menarche comes from the Greek words mene, which means moon, and arche, which means beginning. It marks the beginning moon, the first menstruation, or first moon.
It has been found in a research that women tend to experience menarche as a shift to physical maturity and is influenced by the girl’s preparedness for this biological event. Menarche marks a young juvenile girl’s advancement into womanhood. Menarche is a young woman’s first menstrual period. Every woman has her own story of when and where event occurred. This is actually one of important days for any woman as she is entering into a new stage of life. They do have a detailed memories of this event and also experience mixed emotions.
Cultures around the world have many different menarcheal customs. In most cultures menstruation is associated with physical discomfort, increased emotionality, and restriction of social and physical activities. Some cultures isolate the girl as a protective measure, believing her supernatural powers to be so great at this time that she may endanger the entire community as well as herself. Seclusion also provides an opportunity for the girl to meditate, dream and prepare for her new role in the society.
Menstruation is an experience that women in our culture have been strongly encouraged to keep under veil of secrecy for generations. However, in many societies throughout the world menarche is celebrated in different ways. This came over a shock to me as I was not aware about this kind of celebration is prevalent in many societies around the world.
In certain parts of India while menstrual prohibitions are widely practiced, so is the celebration of girl’s menarche. This shows that the first blood is a cause for womanhood, a source of pride. In parts of Southern India, newly menstruating girls are given feasts, money, and gifts and are decked up in beautiful new clothes. This ceremony is followed till 4-5 days and all the relatives and friends are invited as the event marks a big ceremony.
When asked with one of the girls about her menarche celebration she actually didn’t like it and felt shy and irritated during the whole event since she felt it is unnecessary to make a public announcement about her start of menstruation. Here we notice that though there are many restrictions but along with that in few regions there are celebrations to welcome the girl’s fertile age.
The Dagara ethnic group (Africa) believes that menstruating women possess heightened wisdom and healing power. The Dagara hold large ceremonies each year celebrating the girls who started their periods during the previous twelve months.
Japanese families traditionally commemorate a daughter’s first menstrual period by eating red rice and beans. Aboriginal Australians ritually bathe and apply beautiful body paint to young women at the onset of their periods.
Now the question here is-Why Menarche Celebration? Is it about women becoming fertile and being able to have children rather than celebrations of menstruation per se. There are varied opinions on this when asked with women from different age groups and background.
Some of them believed that these kinds of ceremonies are irrelevant, and should be slowly eliminated. With these the girls might get uncomfortable and during this time they have this terrible stomachaches and they even tend to get irritated at times as such in this situation celebration is not at all needed. Whereas some also are of opinion that why not celebrate, after all the girls are entering into a complete new phase so celebration is a must and signifies that they are entering into a phase of womanhood.
So let’s check out opinions given by some of the females when asked if they ever had their first period celebration and their experience.
“When my daughter had her first menstruation cycle, it was too hard for her to come up with hormonal changes going on, and the excruciating physical pain on top of that. Do you really expect me to make her even more uncomfortable by making her sit on a couch and let people come and see her and make her feel embarrassed. It is a very big deal for her so I don’t think any celebration is required.”
“I would have celebrated within myself or my closed ones as the society in which we live in they still think menstruation as something impure but once this belief is withdrawn from the society I would celebrate it with my friends and relatives and don’t see it as embarrassment.”
“I never thought of celebrating when I had my first period but will definitely celebrate my daughter’s first period. Because it is definitely something to be proud of and a natural process which every girl has to go through but yes would celebrate it only with closed ones as this is special and celebrating with special ones makes more sense to me instead of telling the whole world about it.”
“I would have celebrated only with my closed ones my mom, sister and best friend just confined to these people. I don’t want everyone to know that I’m menstruating because I don’t see any point to it and why big celebration. Celebrating it with closed ones will be more comfortable than celebrating with relatives and other family members.”
With these opinions we can extrapolate that women are ready to celebrate their first menstruation cycle but especially with their closed ones rather than sitting the whole day where everyone is staring at her as she is entering to a new phase.
Menarche celebration has its own positive as well as negative sides. Reinforcing the girl to celebrate her menarche rather than to be ashamed of or seclusion and certainly no reason to hide is one of the positive side to look in this celebration.
In society one tries to avoid the subject of menstruation. Discussing it with males is particularly a discomfort. The manner of discussing menstruation and how it’s represented in advertisements and movies shows our uneasiness. Now how many of us girls are comfortable sharing or talking about periods in front of our brother, father or uncle. We still hesitate blurting out the word “periods” but still there is this big celebration where everyone’s eyes are glaring on that girl who has just stepped into a new phase with hormonal and physical changes where she is almost clueless about the things going around her and what do you expect from an 11-13 years old girl.
As such what I feel is before this celebration takes place the girl has all the right to decide whether she wants this celebration or not. The celebration should not be a compulsion it should be rather according to the willingness of the girl. If she is ready then the day can be marked with a huge celebration and make her feel special on that day but if she is not in that case it should not be a intimidation, she is the one who is going through the stage and has to face the gathering. And complete liberty should be given to her in order to deicide her celebration.
As with the opinions and research I have got many of the women saying that they want to celebrate but with their closed ones as they are more comfortable and also they can share their experience candidly. They do not have to think twice before sharing anything. This will make the girls more comfortable and easier for them in their next periods and they can also take any extra safety measure that they didn’t know about in the next time.
So menarche celebration is done in different ways around the world and have seen that women actually wants to celebrate as it is one of the important phase of life. The ceremony is not a compulsion, rather the day should be cherished. Finally, it is worth remembering that all of us are different and unique and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer to the process. The main thing is that a healthy attitude towards menstruation and becoming a woman is passed down to the next generation, who can then pass down positivity to their families to come. And that collectively we can end taboos related to menstruation in the society as well.