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In some countries, a baby shower is a way to celebrate the recent birth of a child by presenting gifts to the mother at a party, whereas other cultures host a baby shower to celebrate the transformation of a woman into a mother.
The term shower is often assumed to mean that the expectant mother is "showered" with gifts. The related custom bridal shower may have derived its name from the custom in Victorian times for the presents to be put inside a parasol, which when opened would "shower" the bride-to-be with gifts. Alternatively the term possibly denotes a "first showing" of the new baby to the wider family and circle of friends.
Traditionally, baby showers were given only for the family's first child, and only women are invited.
According to etiquette authority Miss Manners, because the party centers on gift-giving, the baby shower is typically arranged and hosted by a close friend rather than a member of the family, since it is considered rude for families to beg for gifts on behalf of their members. 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 grandmother.
When a baby shower is held after the birth of a baby, an invitation to attend the shower may be combined with a baby announcement.
A possible decoration or gift is the baby diaper cake. To make one, diapers and other typical baby supplies are arranged to look like a tiered wedding cake.
Baby shower as a term is relatively new, but the celebrations and rituals associated with pregnancy and childbirth are both ancient and enduring.
Ancient Egypt: Ancient Egyptians did not hold baby showers as we know them today, they did observe rituals associated with birth and pregnancy.
Ancient Greece: Ancient Greeks celebrated pregnancy after the birth of the child.
Middle Ages: Childbirth was associated with not only great physical danger but spiritual danger as well.
Renaissance: Childbirth was an almost mystical event, and mothers-to-be would often be surrounded with references to the Annunciation to encourage and celebrate her.
Victorian Era: Is the predecessor to modern-day baby shower. A Victorian woman would keep her pregnancy a secret as long as possible and would not appear in public due to cultural definitions of proper behavior.
Modern Era: The modern baby shower started after WWII during the baby boom era and evolved with the consumer ideology of 1950s and 1960s. In other words, and served an economic function by providing the mother-to-be with material goods that lessened the financial burden of infant care.
Twenty-First Century: Several important changes associated with technology. Invitations, traditionally mailed, now are often emailed in elaborate graphically designed invitations. In addition, baby shower participants may attempt to identify baby parts on an ultrasound as a game, or even hold virtual baby showers.
Baby showers and other social events to celebrate the impending or recent birth are popular around the world. They are commonly "women-only" social gatherings.
- In Canada, it is traditionally known that only women may attend this event. However, the twenty first century has changed this way of thinking and it is more common to see men at a shower, especially the father to be.
- In Bangladesh, in many places a party named "sadh" (সাধ) or "sadhbhokkhon" (সাধভক্ষণ) is observed on the 7th month of pregnancy. After this the woman resides in the house of her father instead of the house of her husband till baby birth.
- In Brazil, a party called "chá de bebê" (baby tea) is offered before birth and is often a "women-only" event.
- In Chinese tradition, a baby shower, called manyue (满月) is held one month after the baby is born.
- In Hmong culture, a baby shower is called "Puv Hli," and is held one month after the baby is born. A ceremony would be hosted by the paternal grandparents or the father to welcome the baby to the family by tying the baby's wrist with white yarn and/or strings.
- In Armenia, a baby shower is called "qarasunq" (քառասունք) and is celebrated 40 days after baby's birth. It is a mixed party for all relatives and friends. Guests usually bring gifts for the baby or parents.
- In Iran, a baby shower is called a "sismooni party" (Persian:جشن سیسمونی). It is celebrated 1–3 months before the baby's birth. Family and close friends give gifts intended for the baby such as a cot, toys and baby clothes.
- In Costa Rica, a baby shower party is called té de canastilla ("basket tea").
- In Mongolia, a baby shower is called "хүүхдийн угаалга" (huuhdyn ugaalga).
- In Hindu tradition, they are called by different names depending on the community the family belongs to.
- In northern India it is known as godbharaai, in western India, especially Maharashtra, the celebration is known as dohaaljewan, and in West Bengal and Odisha it is called saadhroshi.
- In Southern India, in Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh it is called Seemantham or Valaikaapu or Poochoottal (The expecting mother wears bangles and adorned with flowers) and in Karnataka it is called Seemanta(ಸೀಮಂತ) and is held when the woman is in her 5th or 7th or 9th month of pregnancy. Although Seemantham, Valaikappu and Poochoottal might be celebrated together, they are very different. Seemantham is a religious ceremony while Valaikappu and Poochoottal is a purely social event much like Western baby showers. In a Valaikappu and Poochoottal, there is music played, and the expecting mother is decked in traditional attire with lots of flowers and garlands made of jasmine or mogra. A swing is decorated with flowers of her choice, which she uses to sit and swing. At times there are symbolic cut-outs of moons and stars that are put up. There are blessings showered on her by the elderly ladies from the household and community. Gifts are given to the expecting mother.
- In Gujarat, it is known as " Seemant" or "Kholo Bharyo ". It's religious rituals in most of Gujarati Hindus during 5th or 7th Month of pregnancy. A pregnant woman can only go to her father's home for delivery after her " Seemant". Usually it's only for the first child. They offer special prayer and food to the goddess "Randal, the wife of the Sun".
- In Kerala, it is known as 'Pulikudi' or 'Vayattu Pongala', and is practiced predominantly in the Nair community, though its popularity has spread to other Hindu sects as well over the years. On an auspicious day, after being massaged with homemade ayurvedic oil, the woman has a customary bath with the help of the elderly women in the family. After this, the family deity is worshipped, invoking all the paradevatas (family deities) and a concoction of herbal medicines prepared in the traditional way, is given to the woman. The woman is dressed in new clothes and jewellery used for such occasions. A big difference in the western concept of baby shower and Hindu tradition is that the Hindu ceremony is a religious ceremony to pray for the well-being of the baby. In most conservative families gifts are bought for the mother-to-be but not the baby. The baby is showered with gifts only after birth.
- In Islam adherents are required to perform aqiqah of newly born child. This involves the sacrifice of animals. The meat is then divided in three equal parts; one for the poor and needy, one for relatives and friends which can involve inviting them at home for a feast, and finally the last part is utilized by the household itself.
- In South Africa, a baby shower is called a stork party, and takes place typically when the mother is about 6 months pregnant. Stork parties are usually not attended by men. The stork party is accompanied by silliness such as dressing up, and gifts of baby supplies are given to the mother. A stork party is often organised as a surprise without the mother's knowledge.
- In Nepal a baby shower is known as "dahi chiura khuwaune". The mother-to-be is given gifts from her elders and a meal is cooked for her according to her preferences. The pregnant mother is often invited by her relatives to eat meals with them. Pasni is a traditional celebration after the birth of the child, often marking the age of 6th months for a boy child and 5 months for a girl, often marking the transition to a diet higher in carbohydrates, and allowing the people attending to give their blessings, money and other gifts.
- In Guatemala, only women attend this event. Middle class women usually celebrate more than one baby shower (one with close friends, co-workers, family, etc.).
- In Russia, and Commonwealth of Independent States, there are no baby showers, though some of the younger generation are starting to adapt it.
- In Serbia, and Croatia, there are no baby showers. Etiquette demands that one should never buy a baby gifts until it has been born. And when it is, make sure to call the newborn baby ugly. If you say anything good, the infant will be vulnerable to the evil eye. The party they throw for the baby typically happens 1 – 3 months after the baby is born and is called a Babine
Baby showers for fathers
Some baby showers are directed at the future father. These may be more oriented towards drinking beer, watching sports, fishing, or playing video games. The primary nature of these gifts is diapers and/or diaper-related items. 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. In the United Kingdom, this is called wetting the baby's head, and is seen more commonly than baby showers. Wetting the baby's head is traditionally when the father celebrates the birth by having a few drinks with a group of friends.
Names for events
- Diaper shower refers to a small-scale baby shower, generally for subsequent children, when the parents don't need as many baby supplies.
- Grandma's shower refers to a shower at which people bring items for the grandparents to keep at their house, such as a collapsible crib and a changing pad.
- Sprinkles are small showers for a subsequent child, especially a child who is of a different gender than the previous offspring.
- Blessingway An event that focuses more on pampering the mother-to-be and wishing her well rather than the giving of gifts. This is done with pregnancy for a second child, when the mother doesn't need as much "stuff".
- A gender reveal party is sometimes organized, it is a misnomer as the goal is to reveal the sex of the coming baby. The ritual has been called tacky and farcical by Miss Manners.
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- Royal, Darryle (6 Aug 2013), "Here's Why Gender-Reveal Parties Are the Worst", Phoenix New Times
- Miss Manners (5 Feb 2014), "Miss Manners: Announcement of baby’s gender is not an occasion for party", The Washington Post