From my experience it seems that generally most South Africans view the arrival of twins with a mixture of awe and horror. When I try to maneuver my double pram through crowded aisles at the supermarket I hear whispered “Ag shame” and “Siestog” and the evergreen “Double trouble!”. Many people have directly asked me how I cope and are always amazed that I can give a reasonably coherent answer. Mothers of twins shouldn’t be able to function! I seem to go against their preconceptions. The Xhosa people however, view the arrival of twins as a wonderous thing; something to be celebrated with relish and vigour! I remember a pregnant Xhosa nurse in the maternity ward saying that she had wished to have twins. Most people wouldn’t wish twins on their worst enemy!
There are many interesting traditions relating to twins in the Xhosa culture. When a woman gives birth to twins she is expected to have another child as soon as possible. The next child born is considered to be older and will be there to look after the twins. This could go on ad infinitum if you’re one of those couples who are twinning champions. A woman in Russia in the 1700’s gave birth to 16 sets of twins, in addition to 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quads. If she had been Xhosa I’m sure the number of kids would have been double! Get more interesting facts about twins from Families.com.
It is now encouraged to foster individuality in twins and I must admit that I’m quite adamant about who wears what shade of blue onesie. The Xhosas on the other hand foster the infrangible link that the two share. They are dressed the same and are also given names that essentially mean the same thing. But in illness and death the belief about their bond is most evident. If one child is sick it is dressed in its healthy twin’s clothes to heal it. In the same way if one twin should die the surviving twin has to get into the grave to protect itself from harm. It is believed that illness and death are shared, like everything else.
Despite first being rather petrified by the idea of having and raising twins, I now enjoy the challenge. They have started taking notice of each other and I can see the beginning of a beautiful bond. Growing up as a lonely only child, it makes me happy and a little envious that they will always have each other.