Baby Shower Beginnings: How It All Started
Baby showers. They weren’t always about guessing games and diaper-shaped party favors. Although these celebrations got their start in the beginnings of human culture, they’ve continuously evolved. So when did the baby shower become the baby shower?
The Ancient Baby Shower
A long time ago—as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Greeks—families celebrated the act of bringing new life into the world. But instead of showering the expectant mom with gifts or pregnancy massages, she was hidden away for a period following the birth because it was believed the process was unclean. Celebrations included visiting temples or holding festivals during which the child was formally named. Ancient Greeks also engaged in shouting following labor to signify that peace was once again at hand.
Birth celebrations continued on the tenth day after birth. While the new mom was honored with a meal, just like today’s shower honorees, the momma-to-be in the ancient world didn’t receive so much as a diaper. Instead, they were expected to honor the birth goddess with gifts, or offerings.
The Middle Ages Baby Showers
During the Middle Ages, from the 5th to the 15th century, the celebrations were not so much about mom but about God. The primary birth celebration was the Christian baptism, which was held typically held just one day after the baby’s was born. Mom, however, could not be part of it because tradition dictated that she be sequestered for 40 days following childbirth. During the baptism, mothers counted on Godparents to play a central role. As spiritual teachers, godparents played a vital part in any child’s life. The role’s importance was evidenced by the costly gifts of silver that godparents often gave to the child.
The Renaissance Baby Shower
After the utilitarian celebrations of the Middle Ages, Renaissance celebrations must have seemed slightly more decadent. While baptisms remained important, the new mom was also honored. Family and friends showered her with gifts that included food, clothes, and—appropriately enough for the Renaissance—paintings. And although we know that modern-style rocker glider furniture wasn’t on the gift list, new moms often received a special wooden tray. Inscribed with good wishes for the new family, it was used to carry yummies and goodies to the mommy.
The Victorian Age Baby Shower
By the time the Victorians came along, showers had evolved again. Even though it was uncouth for pregnant women to be seen in public—or to admit that they were in the family way—new moms were typically honored with a tea party after the baby’s birth.
This tradition continued into the early 1900s, transforming into a more festive baby shower with a modern feel to it. Along with the party, friends and family gave the new mother handmade gifts. Grandmothers also traditionally provided gifts made from silver.
By the time the Rat Pack rolled around, the baby shower became a way to help new families cope with the financial burden that came along with those cute little bundles of joy. Gift givers focused on practical items, such as clothing, diapers, and bathing supplies.
The Modern Baby Shower
Baby showers today retain the gift giving and celebration but they have entirely new dimensions as well. For example, these parties were traditionally hosted by the mom-to-be’s friends. However, more families are starting to take a hand in shower arrangements. Mom’s not the only one being celebrated either. Today it’s not uncommon for Dad-to-be to share honoree status. Likewise, guests are no longer limited to sisters, grandmas, and girlfriends. The baby showers of today also include uncles, grandfathers, and golfing buddies.
Baby shower hostesses are often responsible for planning the entire shindig, from serving snacks on a pink platter to festooning the foyer in fuchsia. Trying to be the hostess with the most-est can be stressful, though. Party planners find themselves planning menus, crafting party favors, and coordinating baby shower activities. One aspect of baby showers that hasn’t changed is the gift giving. Moms- (and dads-) to-be are showered with a wide range of gifts. Popular practical presents include diapers, clothes, and nursery items like glider rockers. Luxury items are also a hit with soon-to-be parents. Spa treatments and chic gift baskets are a few of the popular pampering gifts. Modern moms can make it easier for family and friends to choose gift ideas by registering at a favorite store, whether it’s a baby boutique filled with frilly baby dresses or a home improvement store with everything need to create a custom nursery.
Although baby showers have changed dramatically through the ages—from honoring goddesses with gifts to pampering mom with a pedicure—one thing is clear: the arrival of a newborn is a major life milestone that should be honored. Whether it’s nursery glider or a diaper disposal device, gifts will probably continue to be a major part of the celebration. It’s likely future generations will feel that way as well…the question is: what will baby showers look like in 20 years or 100 years?
About the Author
Kimberly Aardal publishes EveryDayRockingChairs.com, which features reviews and articles about many different types of rockers, from a glider for the nursery to the dutailier glider. She lives in Colorado and enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and decorating as well as relaxing in her favorite rocking chair.
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