A day l’ll always remember.
This past year, my brother was blessed to have his first child; a son named Philip. An occasion that momentous called for a gift, and it’s pretty obvious what gift I got him. Even though we live two thousand miles apart, my brother and I celebrated the newest member of our family over facetime with some Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente King T’s. As we memorialized Philip’s arrival into this world, I couldn’t help but think about our own father. What did he do to honor the appearance of his children?
I had to assume not much. My brother was born into the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, a time when my father was among many who were literally struggling to keep a roof over their head. I asked, and to my surprise, he did celebrate; with a fine Cohiba! It was tough to get a hold of, but he manged. Even as the doors had literally been blown off his home, the world around him tumultuous and the future uncertain, he took the opportunity to light up in recognition of new life. In a way he had too, it wasn’t just to commemorate his new son, it was a statement to himself that there was still a future worth celebrating.
That’s really what you’re toasting when you give a new father cigars, the future. The hope you have for the next generation, that your own struggles will never invade their lives. It’s a tried and true custom, perhaps because it gives the father time to reflect on who he is now, and what his life means with this child in it. Tobacco can be a great tool to focus the mind, and can be just the remedy when a newly minted father is panicking over his identity as a parent. But for a tradition that feels so set in stone, the average father wouldn’t have an answer if asked where it originates.
Tobacco’s storied heritage.
As it turns out, it’s a custom more ancient than cigars themselves. Most scholars agree that the basis for giving cigars to fathers comes from the Nootka and Chinook tribes of the Pacific Northwest. When the tribes had an occasion to celebrate, like a birth, they would gather for a feast called a potlatch. (If you’re wondering the same thing I was, I checked and the potlatch is oddly not how we got the word potluck.) It was tradition to exchange gifts at a potlatch, and one of the most common gifts was tobacco.
The tradition endured even as the nation was colonized, but it spread to American culture because of western tradition. In a time before hospitals, home births were the norm. Since doctors weren’t common and easily accessible, most births were performed by women called midwives. It was considered improper in English society for any men to be present during birth, so expectant fathers simply waited in an adjacent room while the birth happened. A child being born can take hours though, so the fathers needed something to distract them. What better way to while away the hours than with a long cigar? It soon became the go to method to pass time during childbirth, and once the joy of a new baby became associated with smoking a cigar, the custom evolved into what we have today.
Did you get a cigar as a new parent? Did you give one? How was it? Let us know in the comments!