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21 First Period Traditions From Around The World

"My mom rinsed my underwear (literally just with water) and smeared it all over my face because she said it would prevent pimples in the future."

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We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what it's like to menstruate in your culture. Many of you wrote about the ways your family or community marks a person's first period.

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We heard from more than 6,000 people around the world. None of these responses should be taken to speak for an entire country, culture, or religion — there are, of course, many diverse beliefs and practices within each. But here are some of the things readers shared.

1. "My mom rinsed my underwear (literally just with water) and smeared it all over my face because she said it would prevent pimples in the future."

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My mom rinsed my underwear (literally just with water) and smeared it all over my face because she said it would prevent pimples in the future. She made me jump three steps from the stairs because it signifies how many days you'll be on your period.

—Shane, 23, Philippines

2. "You have a party thrown to celebrate your transition into womanhood where you don't leave the house for three days, then get presents."

You have a party thrown to celebrate your transition into womanhood where you don't leave the house for three days, then get presents and a huge party (typically). You mustn't be around children or men during your first period.

—Nyiko, South Africa

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3. "When a girl gets her period for the first time, she's given a hard-boiled egg to swallow whole. Biting the egg is like killing your babies."

4. "When you get your first period you have to wash your underwear by yourself."

—Anonymous, Macedonia

5. "I called my grandma over the toilet and told her what I saw on my panties. When she saw the blood she SLAPPED ME."

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When I got my first period I was at my grandparents' summer house. I called my grandma over the toilet, told her what I saw on my panties, and when she saw the blood she SLAPPED ME. She literally slapped me. I had already been scared by blood and dried stains, and now I was terrorized.

I thought I had done something wrong. I got very ashamed. Then she started to laugh and said that it is a conventional thing. She told me that young girls who got their first period should be slapped right there so that their cheeks will always seem red, and also they will have a sense of shame throughout their lives. I think the latter one is the actual reason though.

—Damla, Turkey

(We also heard about slapping traditions from readers with Afghan, French and Greek backgrounds.)

6. "My mum wanted to bake a cake."

@thesubtlemummy / Via instagram.com

My mum wanted to bake a cake (she's Icelandic and American). I was horrified by that idea (I've been brought up British).

—Janey, England

7. "The family throws a big party."

When a girl gets her first period, the family throws a big party because the girl becomes a woman.

—Maria, 28, Greece

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8. "When you first have your period, the mother will make sekihan — sticky rice with adzuki beans, traditionally made for celebrations — but she won't say why."

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When you first have your period, the mother will make sekihan — sticky rice with adzuki beans, traditionally made for celebrations — but she won't say why. The father and the rest of the family are supposed to guess that the girl has welcomed her first period.

—Anonymous, Japan

9. "When my mother found out, she insisted on taking me out to dinner."

When my mother found out, she insisted on taking me out to dinner in a sort of celebration, but I was mortified at the thought. I went to appease her, but was uncomfortable the entire time.

—Anonymous, 18, US

11. "The girl must promise not to look at any boys (even her father and brother) for a certain length of time."

In my culture, when a girl gets her first period, her parents will consult a wise old medicine practitioner, who will tell you how to carry out her "party." Each girl's day will be personalized, using indicators that I would not know about.

The morning after the period starts, the girl must promise not to look at any boys (even her father and brother) for a certain length of time, all according to what the old wise people tell you. For some, it can last more than a week, when you can't even go to school. This is apparently supposed to symbolize that you will protect yourself from boys (???).

After your sans-boy days are over, the girl will celebrate, inviting her friends and family to come over and have cakes, fruit, and rice.

—Anonymous, born in North America to South Indian parents

12. "To keep active and healthy, they make you drink raw egg with some kind of oil poured in it. (It sucks but it made me feel better.)"

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I'm Indian, so I don't know about other cultures in Malaysia, but usually for us when it's your first time, you're gonna have to stay at home for a week. You're basically trapped in your room. No going out at all. During that one week, you're not allowed to go to the living room, kitchen, your parents' room, and importantly, the altar room. You can go to the bathroom only to shower and change your pad.

To avoid evil stuff (like spirits or ghosts), you need a broom placed in front of the door of your room. You should carry a nail wherever you go when you're on your period. Apparently spirits love young blood.

As it's your first time, you tend to be weak and afraid and tired, so to keep active and healthy, they make you drink raw egg with some kind of oil poured in it. (It sucks but it made me feel better.) The worst part is whatever you used and wore for that whole week, you HAVE to discard. Which meant I had to throw away my new jacket. Oh, that includes the plate, bowl, fork, and spoon you used.

—S, 14, Malaysia

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13. "I was kind of embarrassed by the sheer number of people that came to visit me, even men!"

According to South Indian traditions, when you get your first period, they isolate you in a corner of a room. Nobody should touch you. You can have food only with salt, nothing else. And you have your own utensils. They do this for anywhere between three and nine days. I was supposed to do this for seven days, but I argued with my mom and did it for five because I was missing out on school.

On the first day they call all your relatives and family friends, and they all bless you and bring gifts, and do a ceremony. On the last day you take a special bath, and the next day you go to the temple and have another ceremony. They host dinner or lunch and then you're back to normal. It is kind of like a celebration, but I hated it because I am a foodie and not having tasty food for four days made me angry 😂.

And I was kind of embarrassed by the sheer number of people that came to visit me, even men! I was 13 — imagine my embarrassment.

—Anonymous, 13, United Arab Emirates

14. "When a girl has her first period, every member of the family and the family's closer friends needs to know about it."

@elizhyland / Via instagram.com

I don't know if it happens in other countries, but here in Brazil, when a girl has her first period, every member of the family and the family's closer friends needs to know about it. It's like a ritual for celebrating.

—Stéfani, 21, Brazil

15. "It can become kind of awkward when your parents' old friends all congratulate you."

When you have your first period everyone starts to call you "signorina," which means "miss" or "young lady," and your relatives make sure that anybody who knows you gets informed about the good news. So it can become kind of awkward when your parents' old friends all congratulate you in the strangest ways.

—Maria, 16, Italy

17. "My mom told me to have someone else pour water over you in the bath during the first day of your first period to wash away the blood, impurities, and bad luck."

I'm Filipino-American, and I'm not sure if these are superstitions common throughout the culture, but my mom told me to have someone else pour water over you in the bath during the first day of your first period to wash away the blood, impurities, and bad luck.

—Michele, US

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18. "I have heard some families draw lines with chalk on the floor of the doorway and have the girl cross over and enter the house when she gets her first period."

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I have heard some families draw lines with chalk on the floor of the doorway and have the girl cross over and enter the house when she gets her first period. The number of lines depicts the number of days the period will last (3.5 days is most common).

—Nikhat, 21, Fiji

20. "Once you get your first period you go on a berry cleanse where you don't eat berries for a year."

Yuko Yamada / Getty Images

I'm half Indigenous. Different areas have different customs, but one custom I've learned is that once you get your first period, you go on a berry cleanse where you don't eat berries for a year. But you do collect and preserve them, and once a year has passed, you and the other women in your life celebrate your womanhood and discipline and eat berries (that's the short version).

—Anonymous, Canada

21. "My Sri Lankan grandmother ambushed me on the stairs...and handed me a $50 bill. Still the best period I've ever had."

On the second day of my first period, my Sri Lankan grandmother ambushed me on the stairs. She told me that in Sri Lanka a girl's first period is cause for celebration and handed me a $50 bill. Still the best period I've ever had.

—Malika, 23, Canada

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

How does your family or community mark first periods? Let us know in the comments.

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