The “omengat” (hot bath) is a very important Palauan tradition which celebrates a woman’s success of birthing her first born child. It is one of the biggest celebrations in Palauan culture because of a legend that had changed the birthing ritual that Palauan’s had once practiced. This deep-rooted traditional ceremony celebrates the gift of natural child birth. Traditional herbs are gathered and steamed in a boiling pot by one of the elderly Palauan women. It is believed that the steam from the herbs will cleanse and refresh the woman’s body after labor. A pot of herbs is placed in a secluded dome made from coconut leaves for women of every age to enter and be cleansed, in some events there may be more than one dome with boiling pots of natural herbs ready for use.
Food and beverages are provided from the father of the new born as a token of appreciation and respect for the woman’s endurance of carrying a baby in her womb for nine months and then successfully birthing it. A group of young dancers perform a contemporary dance for the entertainment of the crowd. The woman then makes an appearance covered beautifully in a yellowish oil “reng” as a sign for the closing of the ceremony.
Music is played from a live band while friends and family dance and use herbal plants soaked in hot water to splash onto the woman’s legs. After several hours of celebration she then goes back inside her home and the ceremony comes to an end. Anyone is invited to participate in this joyous event. The “omengat” is one of the many unique experiences that Palau offers for its visitors. Its traditional atmosphere is remarkable and will enlighten your understanding of Palau, its people, and its unique culture.