Now I will note that I am an American, and as such, found some differing customs between the US and Germany when a child is born. For example, baby showers are NOT held in Germany, out of a belief it is unlucky to celebrate the birth of a child before the child is actually born.
Also in Germany there is the option of a “blank gender” (“X”, alongside “M” and “F”) on birth certificates, meant for infants born with ambiguous genitialia, which is simply not an option in the United States. Also, the practice of infant male circumcision has been debated in German courts for the last few years – while commonly done in the United States for medical and/or religious reasons, in Germany the practice has been seen as a battle between various religious authorities, the legal system, longstanding custom, and various medical and childs-rights organizations. As of 2012, non-therapeutic infant male circumcision has been explicitly approved in the German Civil Code.
The Wedding Tree to celebrate a Girl’s birth
In lighter customs, sometimes when a baby girl is born in Germany, there is the tradition of a “wedding tree” – trees are planted in honor of the girl’s birth. When their daughter comes of age and decides to get married, the idea is that the family will sell the trees and the earnings will be used to help their daughter start her new household as a married woman.
In terms of the gendered customs, these may be slowly changing, but since by and large German society expects people to be gendered male or female (or eventually identify on the binary) and because of the naming laws, this may be a slow change indeed.
Specialities of the Naming Law
Speaking of naming law, this is a major difference between the United States especially that I found. While each country tends to have different regulations in terms of names, in Germany these regulations are a bit more stringent. For example: the first name of a child must be gendered male or female – meaning you cannot have a gender ambiguous first name in Germany, so names like Hunter or Paige would be rejected. The name chosen must also not cause offense or discomfort for the one using it, you cannot use last names as first names or the names of objects as first names, and in addition to all of this, it is the local Standesamt (magistrate/civil office) which approves or rejects names. Yes, the parents or individual may be able to appeal a decision, but because of these regulations and the inconvenience of appealing (every time a name is submitted you pay a fee, so it can add up in terms of inconvenience and cost), many names in Germany have a traditional sound to them. So don’t be surprised if you know a lot of Michaels or Sophies – whether they are adults or children!