This custom is very old and continues on until today. On searching the internet for other fertility customs and symbols, I revealed that, unsurprisingly, there are a whole lot of different ones from all different places. Here is what I’v found on the subject:
The Celts in ancient Ireland believed that the Hazel tree was a particularly fertile being. They had the custom to carry them around in their pockets or to hang them in their homes as a symbol of fertility. Interestingly enough, studies actually show that the oils in hazelnuts help regulate insulin and blood sugar which can actually improve fertility.
Mistletoe spreads quickly due to its evolved ability to grow on branches of trees. It was believed, by Celtic Druids, that mistletoe is a bestowed of life and fertility. Oh, and the custom of kissing under Mistletoe at Xmas is due to the fact that it is considered an aphrodisiac- a substance that increases sexual desire.
According to Jewish tradition, the pomegranate was one of the species brought by the spies to Moses to show that the land of Canaan was fertile. Also in Feng Shui, the fruit is considered a symbol of fertility. Additional symbols can be found in Kabbalah, specific letter combination engraved on a silver pendant believed being helpfull in many cases. (See these pendants for example)
According to Hindu culture, the lotus flower is the highest symbol of fertility. It is, in their eyes, representative of purity due to the fact that it grows in muddy waters but remains untouched by the filth.
Squatting frogs are representative of giving birth to new life in South and Central America. Frogs were also linked to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and procreation, in Roman times. In addition, in ancient Egypt, loads of frogs descended on Egypt when the Nile flooded (Ten Plagues in the book of Exodus anyone?) and because the Egyptians were dependent on this flooding, the frogs came to symbolize fertility.
In India, terra-cotta elephants often feature in wedding ceremonies due to their long trunks being associated with rain which brings fertility to the fields. In China elephants are considered a symbol of pregnancy and it is common for a pair of elephants to be kept in the bedroom, on either side of the bed, facing the center of the room.
Fish are a fertility symbol in China due to the tons of eggs they produce- this is also the case in the Jewish religion. Feng Shui adherents believe that a double fish statue should be kept in the southwest corner of the bedroom.
According to the Celts, the moon is a fertility symbol due to its phases being very much like the menstrual cycle of women- both repeating themselves in a cycle of constant rebirth. I can’t help but compare, once again with my own religion, Judaism which also makes this comparison for the same reason!
Well, there you have it- a whole bunch of interesting fertility symbols from a whole bunch of different places and cultures. It is really interesting to see the emphasis placed on fertility by human-beings all over the world- after all, no matter what the culture, religion or nationality, all human-beings want to leave a part of them behind in this world…