When babies are born in Mongolia they are usually gifted with a cutout of a fox. It could be made from felt (usually was felt), cardboard, wood etc., It’s gotten so fancy that there are even 3D models of foxes now available in stores. Anyway, it doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty but the cutout needs to resemble a fox. Usually it’s said that the father has to hand make it for their baby.
So what’s the story?
When newborns dream, Mongolian folk legend says that spirits in the form of a fox visit the babies in their dreams and tell them funny stories or jokes which is why it’s believed that the babies smile and giggle sometimes when they are sleeping. But the fox also tells lies and tricks the babies into thinking they’re going to take their mothers away or their mother has died, which results in a lot of crying. So the fox cutout discourages these dream foxes to visit their babies. The fox symbol is usually hung near the crib above the baby’s head. Sort of reminds me of the western dreamcatcher.
Here’s the fox for my baby that is still hung above his crib.
This ritual is one of many that makes you wonder about how such things came to be in the first place. Like who came up with this sort of thing and how did it consume the whole population? Well I did a bit of googling and came up with the following:
https://xemnel.com/p/1009 says: “Some ethnic tribes in different regions of Mongolia usually have different customs. One insist the cutout of the fox needs to be handmade by the father or the uncle of the baby. So why the fox? Because foxes are cunning, smart and exert a lot of spiritual energy from themselves, researchers claim. Also the fox is very loyal to its cubs and doesn’t leave them until they have reached full maturity.”
Okay that doesn’t explain a whole lot. Here’s another one.
https://news.zindaa.mn/1igx says: “Infants can’t distinguish between dream and reality, which is why a lot of infants sometimes mysteriously pass away in their sleep. To protect the baby from the cunning and sly fox that comes to play in their dreams, a felt fox cutout made by the father is hung near the crib. When the dream fox comes to visit and sees the felt fox, it stays and plays with it, symbolizing a connecting bridge between the dream world and the real world for the baby.”