Why do we have baby showers? Where did they come from?
Checking out a few website on the subject I found a pretty detailed site which details ‘baby rituals’ as far back as ancient Egyptian times.
The site I went to was Random History, here is a condensed version in my words.
It seem that child birth throughout history was very much revered and women hidden away until after the birth. It seems that even as recently as Victorian times women were thought of as ‘unclean’ and that the pain of child birth was in fact due to the fact that the baby is conceived from sin.
That sounds awful! So why would they celebrate it?
A baby shower or ritual has been around in some shape or form since ancient Egypt. And was more about social ranking and position for the women then a party as we know it. The main differences apart from the lack of silly games is that the ritual takes place after birth. It is a ritual where the baby is welcomed into society and into the home and where the women can be re-introduced back into society. Childbirth was such a dirty thing for them that they needed to cleanse themselves after.
Egyptians would visit temples and ritually dispose of the after-birth. This would happen after 40 days and for them would symbolise the end of the ‘pollution of childbirth’.
It was also where the naming of the child would take place.
The ancient Greeks were similar in their thinking. Their ritual was to welcome into society the baby and for the women meant recognition from a very male world, where childless marriages would usually end in divorce.
Middle ages were a bit more superstitious. Not only was labour pain due to the sin the baby was conceived in but was punishment for that sin to the women. They would often have a priest present as birth usually meant death for the women. And mid-wives were given permission to cut open a dead mother in order to enable the baby to be baptised. In those days unbaptised babies went straight to hell!
If the mother and baby lived it would be baptised the very next day.
Women in this time were still view as unclean and would not be allowed back into society for 40 days.
Gifts were given to the baby, a common gift would be a pair of silver spoons.
Us women really get a raw deal so far!!!
It’s not until Renaissance times that things got a little better………not much though.
It was encouraged to celebrate the women in this period and is the first time that gifts were given to the mother.
Often the gifts would be decorated trays carrying food for the mother.
They would serve as decorations to hang on the walls after there use.
In Victorian times it took a little step back as women were rarely seen in public. It was such a taboo subject that they would stay house bound till the birth.
After birth her friends would hold a tea party to celebrate the new arrival.
Gifts would be hand made and games would be quite childish and superstitious.
The silver spoon tradition was still around but was for the grandmother to give the spoon to the baby.
As a side note silver spoons were given as they would protect the baby’s health.
Silver has for a long time been known to disrupt bacteria and in a time when antibiotics where not available silver was the next best thing.
Boy am I glad I wasn’t around for all that!
Now up to the modern time the idea of a baby shower is far more how we know it today.
It was something that became more popular during the 50’s and 60’s.
It had become a way to help new parents with some of the expense a new baby brings.
It is still a ritual of welcoming but instead of welcoming the baby it is a re-introduction of the women in her new role as a mother.
In these new modern baby showers the mother would have a kind of throne to sit on, which is usually decorated and allows her to open the gifts in front of her friends.
Games would be played that are quite child like and return the expectant mother back to innocents.
Who would have thought that baby showers went that far back.
It was a conversation with a taxi driver that prompted my research as he said “Never had that in my day”.
Well there you have it, they did and for many years before that too.
This brings me right up to date with my very modern baby shower.
My sister and my best mates Sian and Minh Ai did an awesome job on Sunday.
In my Dad’s garden on Plum Lane I arrived at 2pm, the dress code was glam.
The food was a BBQ where we had fruit punch and bubbly and streamers and bubbles to blow bubbles like when you were a kid.
I felt like a princess with all my closest friends, my Nan and my favourite Aunties all around me.
They had a chair for me with balloons attached and lots of presents to open.
They even came up with a good game to play.
Taking lots of photos from my childhood they stuck them to a big sheet of card and wrote down captions that would fit the photo.
I also have to make mention of the banner that Minh Ai made and the wonderful cake shaped like a push chair my sister made.
You all made that day very special for me and is something I will never forget!
So next time someone asks you where do baby showers come from? You know the answer.
And rather then being a materialistic thing of no significance it actually plays an important part in the transformation from women to mother.
Sally Dixey is a Crossfit London Coach.