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There are few, if any, life events that hold as much significance as becoming a parent. The birth of one’s child is a cause for celebration, and one of the most well-known traditions for marking the occasion is handing out cigars to friends and family (who are of age, of course). But how did such a custom come to pass? What connection is there between enjoying a herf with loved ones and the arrival of a newborn? Let’s take a brief look at the origins of “it’s a boy” and “it’s a girl” cigars.
As it turns out, this is a tradition that predates the U.S. Many Native American tribes would celebrate the birth of a child (and many other occasions) with a feast called a “potlatch.” During these festive meals, the new parents would give gifts to attendees. These gifts could be anything from functional animal pelts to decorative ornaments. Of course, another popular gift would be tobacco, which was highly valued by many indigenous tribes. It may not have come in the form of an expertly crafted cigar, but the sentiment remains the same.
Fast forward to the early days of colonial America. Soon-to-be fathers almost always stayed out of the area where the birth was taking place. While midwives and doctors tended to the woman in labor, the man of the house would simply…wait. So what is someone to do when they need to simultaneously pass time and calm nerves? Drink and smoke, of course!
Over the years, in 19th and 20th century America, the preferred way to pass the time in this scenario became limited to smoking cigars rather than drinking. One can only speculate that wives didn’t appreciate seeing their husbands three sheets to the wind after hours upon hours of labor—but I digress. Whether at home or in a hospital waiting room (yes, people used to be able to smoke there), a slow smoke with a long cigar just made sense.
But who wants to smoke alone? That’s where the idea of gifting of “it’s a girl” and “it’s a boy” cigars to others comes into play. In this way, the Native American ceremony of gifting tobacco was married with the practical need to pass time, and a unique tradition was, well…born.