Ritos del Nacimiento al Matrimonio en Vasconia (Rites from Birth to Marriage in the Basque Country) is an ethnographic research project conducted by the Etniker Euskalerria Groups. It forms part of the Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country designed by José Miguel de Barandiarán. The three previous volumes, Alimentación Doméstica (Household Foodstuffs), Juegos Infantiles (Children's Games) and Ritos Funerarios (Funeral Rites) were published in 1990, 1993 and 1995 respectively.
The research was carried out in the territory which now forms the Basque Country, an area of Western Europe stretching from the River Adour in the north to the River Ebro in the south. This area includes two political areas within Spain (the Basque Autonomous Community and the Community of Navarre), and part of the French departement of Pyrénées Atlantiques. Its total surface area is 20,531 km2, and its population is 2,937,151 (1990 figures).
Field work was carried out in sixty-six towns spread throughout Alava, Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Navarre, Basse-Navarre, Labourd and Soule. The factors taken into account in selecting towns for the survey included the regional diversity of the territory being studied and of the rural, urban and coastal areas where the survey was carried out. The ethnographic questionnaire used can be found in the Guía Para una encuesta etnográfica (Guide for an Ethnographic Survey. Chapter II. Household Group Uses) published by Barandiarán in 1974, and more specifically in the questions on rites of passage for birth and baptism; childhood and youth; courtship, marriage and weddings (questions 1I.174 to 11.237).
This work was written up by the Ethnography Department of the Instituto Labayru. It describes the rites performed from birth to marriage. Together with the funeral rites described in the previous volume these complete the rites of passage found in the Basque Country.
The first section describes the birth and early care of children, along with children's beliefs about where babies come from and adult beliefs concerned with birth. Then baptism ceremonies and prescribed behaviour for the postnatal period. A look at initiation to childhood, the rite of first Holy Communion and the learning of domestic chores by children conclude the first six chapters.
The main body of the second section deals with customs associated with youth: after looking at dancing, courtship and flirting the study moves on to deal with the establishing of formal engagements. Subsequent chapters look at marriage articles and dowries, which were of more importance in former times, and the preparations for weddings, including the reading of the banns, bachelor parties, invitations and wedding presents.
Chapters twelve to fifteen deal with weddings themselves. The wedding party, the religious ceremony, the wedding reception and the rituals observed there, the post-nuptial offering and the tornaboda, an old custom involving the parading of the trousseau and the entry into the home of the married couple are the main points looked at. The study finished with chapters on bachelorhood/spinsterhood, the marriage of old people and widows/widowers and common law marriages.
This volume, the three earlier ones and the remaining volumes of the Ethnographic Atlas yet to be published examine the diverse ways of life of human beings in the Basque Country. The survey covers traditional culture as recorded throughout this century and the changes which have taken place in that culture in contemporary times.