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Baby shower cake of a crib
Baby shower cake of a crib

A baby shower is a party of gift-giving or a ceremony that has different names in different cultures. It celebrates the delivery or expected birth of a child or the transformation of a woman into a mother.

Etymology

The term shower is often assumed to mean that the expectant mother is "showered" with gifts. A related custom, called a bridal shower, may have derived its name from the custom in the 19th century for the presents to be put inside a parasol, which when opened would "shower" the bride-to-be with gifts.[1] Alternatively the term possibly denotes a "first showing" of the new baby to the wider family and circle of friends, although the baby shower is usually held before the birth of the baby.

Description

Cake and finger foods are often served at baby showers.
Cake and finger foods are often served at baby showers.

Traditionally, baby showers are given only for the family's first child, and only women are invited,[2] though this has changed in recent years, now allowing showers being split up for different audiences: workplace, mixed-sex, etc.[3] Activities at baby showers include gift-giving and playing themed games.

Baby shower games vary, sometimes including standard games such as bingo, and sometimes being pregnancy-themed, such as "guess the mother's measurements" or "guess the baby". These games help the close friends attend the shower bond with the mother and enable the new family to say thanks ahead of time, figuring out who is willing and able to help them with the challenges of bringing up.

According to etiquette authority Miss Manners, because the party centers on gift-giving,[4] the baby shower is typically arranged and hosted by a close friend rather than a member of the family, since it is considered improper for families to beg for gifts on behalf of their members.[5] However, this custom varies by culture or region and in some it is expected and customary for a close female family member to host the baby shower, often the baby's maternal grandmother.[6]

When a baby shower is held after a baby's birth, an invitation to attend the shower may be combined with a baby announcement. In the US, if a baby shower does not happen before the arrival of the baby, a sip-and-see party or other similar events can be organized after the birth.

Gifts

Guests bring small gifts for the expectant mother. Typical gifts related to babies include diapers, blankets, baby bottles, clothes, and toys. It is common to open the gifts during the party; sometimes the host will make a game of opening gifts.

Family bonding

The baby shower is a family's first opportunity to gather people together to help play a part in their child's life. The new parents may wish to call on people to assist in the upbringing of their child, and help educate the child over time. People around the family, who care for them, want to be involved in the child's life, and a baby shower presents an opportunity for them to give gifts and be of help, showing their love for the family.[7] If it happens before the birth, it allows the new family to thank everyone before the stress of a new baby and lack of sleep begins.

History

Baby shower shortbread biscuits
Baby shower shortbread biscuits

The term "baby shower" is relatively new, but the celebrations and rituals associated with pregnancy and childbirth are both ancient and enduring.[8]

Ancient India
In India, a pregnancy ritual has been followed since the vedic ages: an event called seemantha, held in the 7th or 8th month. The mother-to-be is showered with dry fruits, sweets and other gifts that help the baby's growth. A musical event to please the baby's ears is the highlight of the ritual, as it was common knowledge that the baby's ears would start functioning within the womb. The ritual prays for a healthy baby and mother, as well as a happy delivery and motherhood.
Ancient Egypt
In ancient Egypt, rituals relating to the birth of a child took place after the event itself. Quite unlike modern baby showers, this involved the mother and the child being separated to "contain and eliminate the pollution of birth" – this may have included visiting local temples or shrines. After this, there may also have been household rituals that took place, but the specifics have been found hard to study as these are such female-centered events.[8]
Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks also celebrated pregnancy after the birth, with a shout (oloyge) after the labor has ended, to indicate that "peace had arrived". Five to seven days later, there is a ceremony called Amphidromia, to indicate that the baby had integrated into the household. In wealthy families, the public dekate ceremony, after ten days, indicated the mother's return to society. (The ten-day period is still observed in modern-day Iran.)[8]
Medieval Europe
Due to the likelihood a mother would die in childbirth, this time was recognized as having a great risk of spiritual danger in addition to the risk of physical danger. Priests would often visit women during labor so they could confess their sins. After the birth, usually on the same day, a baptism ceremony would take place for the baby. In this ceremony, the godparents would give gifts to the child, including a pair of silver spoons.[8]
Renaissance Europe
Pregnancies at this time were celebrated with many different kinds of birth gifts: functional items, like wooden trays and bowls, as well as paintings, sculptures, and food. Childbirth was seen as almost mystical, and mothers-to-be were often surrounded with references to the Annunciation by way of encouragement and celebration.[8]
Victorian Britain and North America
Superstitions sometimes led to speculation that a woman might be pregnant, such as two teaspoons being accidentally placed together on a saucer. Gifts were usually hand-made, but the grandmother would give silver, such as a spoon, mug, or porringer.[8] In Britain, the manners of the upper-class (and, later, middle-class) required pregnancy to be treated with discretion: the declining of social invitations was often the only hint given. After the birth, a monthly nurse would be engaged, whose duties included regulating visitors. When the nanny took over, the mother began to resume normal domestic life, and the resumption of the weekly 'at home' afternoon tea an opportunity for female friends to visit. The Christening - usually held when the child was between 8-12 weeks old - was an important social event for the family, godparents and friends.
Modern North America
The modern baby shower in America started in the late 1940s and the 1950s, as post-war women were expecting the Baby Boom generation. As in earlier eras, when young women married and were provided with trousseau, the shower served the function of providing the mother and her home with useful material goods.[8]

While continuing the traditions from the 1950s, modern technology has altered the form a baby shower takes: games can include identifying baby parts on a sonogram. Moreover, although traditional baby showers were female-exclusive, mixed-sex showers have increased in frequency.[8]

In different countries

Diaper cake
Diaper cake

Baby showers and other social events to celebrate an impending or recent birth are popular around the world. They are often women-only social gatherings.

Baby showers for fathers

Some baby showers are directed at fathers. These may be more oriented towards drinking beer, watching sports, fishing, or playing video games.[11][12] The primary nature of these gifts is diapers and/or diaper-related items.[13][14] The organization of the diaper party is typically done by the friends of the father-to-be as a way of helping to prepare for the coming child. These parties may be held at local pubs/bars, a friend's house, or the soon-to-be grandfather's house.[13][15] In the United Kingdom, this is called wetting the baby's head, and is generally more common than baby showers. However, with the growth of American cultural influence- accelerated through celebrities via social media sites like Instagram, baby shower decorations are becoming more common in the United Kingdom.[16] Wetting the baby's head is traditionally when the father celebrates the birth by having a few drinks and getting drunk with a group of friends.

There has been some controversy over these, with Judith Martin calling them a "monstrous imposition",[14] although she was referring to the attitude of demanding gifts and not necessarily the male version of a baby shower.

In Hungary, such an event is called Milking party held by tradition in favor of the mother to be blessed with breast milk for the newborn. Practically it is the last day-off of the father for some time as he is expected to stay home to help. No similar domestic custom exists for mothers, such as a baby shower. Gifts for the baby are given on the first visit to his/her home. This due to health concerns happens at the appropriate and suitable time for each counterpart.

Names for events

A buffet at a baby shower, featuring an appropriately themed cake.
A buffet at a baby shower, featuring an appropriately themed cake.

See also

References

  1. ^ Montemurro, Beth (2006). "Origins of Bridal Showers and Bachelorette Parties". Something Old, Something Bold. Rutgers University Press. pp. 26. ISBN 0-8135-3811-4.
  2. ^ Robin Elise Weiss (2009). The Complete Illustrated Pregnancy Companion. Fair Winds. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1616734435. baby shower history and tradition.
  3. ^ "The History of Baby Showers". www.parentingpage.com. 10 October 2020. Retrieved 2021-03-07.
  4. ^ William Haviland; Harald Prins; Dana Walrath; Bunny McBride (2013). Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Cengage Learning. p. 784. ISBN 978-1285677583.
  5. ^ Martin, Judith (10 September 2010). "Miss Manners: Modesty is the best party policy". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Xiaowei Zang (2012). Understanding Chinese Society. Routledge. p. 208. ISBN 978-1136632709.
  7. ^ "Why to Have Baby Showers?". The Pregnancy Zone. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ritual and Ceremony: A History of Baby Showers". www.randomhistory.com. Archived from the original on 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  9. ^ The sacred meadows : a structural analysis of religious symbolism in an East African town / by Abdul Hamid M. el Zein.
  10. ^ 'Raise your voices and kill your animals' : Islamic discourses on the Idd el-Hajj and sacrifices in Tanga (Tanzania) : authoritative texts, ritual practices and social identities / by Gerard C. van de Bruinhorst full text
  11. ^ "Fathers-to-be get their own baby showers male style". TribLIVE. 2011-10-03. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  12. ^ "It's buddies, beers and diapers". StarTribune.com. 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  13. ^ a b Yadegaran, Jessica (2011-09-25). "Home & Garden | Diaper parties: Dad-to-be's answer to baby showers | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattletimes.nwsource.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-30. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  14. ^ a b Martin, Judith (2009-01-28). "Miss Manners: Diaper party is beyond the pail - Houston Chronicle". Chron.com. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  15. ^ Tjader, Aimie (25 July 2011). "It's buddies, beers and diapers". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
  16. ^ Kate Fox (2008). Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85788-508-8.
  17. ^ Murray, Linda J.; Hennen, Leah; Scott, Jim; et al. (2005-06-22). The BabyCenter Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Birth: Expert Advice and Real-World Wisdom from the Top Pregnancy and Parenting Resource. Rodale. p. 346. ISBN 9781594862113. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  18. ^ Hill, Sabrina (2010-09-30). Everything Baby Shower Book: Throw a memorable event for mother-to-be. Adams Media. pp. 133–144. ISBN 9781440524455. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  19. ^ Vora, Shivani (9 December 2012). "For Baby No. 2 or 3, No Shower but a Sprinkle". The New York Times. p. 12. Retrieved 3 February 2013.