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The History of Baby Showers
by Brenda Arnold
baby showers are a great way to celebrate the new baby and help the parents get suppliesIn North America, baby showers only became popular after with the baby boom after World War II. Before then they used to be an occasion for the more well-to-do class. They were held after the birth, when the baby was presented, and if the family was religious, it coincided with the baptism. It was also a way of keeping the new mother company while she and her baby were in confinement, often for a month. Only women were invited because birth and children were long considered a “women’s affair”. It was also traditionally a party for the first child only, the idea being that the (mostly practical) gifts would see the next children through as well.

Some historians have found evidence of baby showers, or something similar, quite some time ago. These discoveries lead experts to believe that celebrating birth started in ancient cultures, like those in the Egyptian and Roman times. No definitive proof is available, but historians have deciphered data which could mean baby showers took place.

When you look at baby showers from long ago, you see that most of the gifts given to the family were handmade. Articles of clothing, blankets, and even food items were provided as gifts for the new family. Showers in the past occurred after the birth of the child, so many times part of the "baby shower" was the viewing of the new child.

In recent years, the baby shower has started to occur before the actual birth of the child. With the new technology that is available to expectant parents, the gender of the child is not so much a mystery. Therefore, a baby shower can be thrown early in preparation for the baby's arrival without the worry of buying the wrong thing.

Baby Shower Symbols: Many people believe that the story of the stork delivering babies originated in the Netherlands and Northern Germany, where it was a common character in children’s stories and nursery rhymes. These people believed that the stork was a bearer or good luck and fortune.

Others believe that in Victorian times, the question of “Where do babies come from?” was such a delicate one that parents told their children that the storks they often saw perched upon chimneys were there to deliver the babies to their new homes. In Ireland and in Celtic folklore, the stork was associated with springtime and fertility. Children who wanted a baby sister or brother learned to sing songs to the stork in the hopes that they would get their wish!

Adorable, fuzzy baby animals are a popular symbol on baby stationery, clothing and blankets. The baby chick symbolizes new life. In ancient times, the egg was thought to represent the tomb of Jesus. Therefore, the baby chick emerging from the egg came to represent new life or re-birth. The meaning of the lamb also has roots in the Christian religion. It is thought to represent Jesus, as in “the lamb of God”. In ancient times, baby bunnies were representative of abundant new life. This has continued in modern times as bunnies adorn many baby items.

Baby Shower Customs:  A key element is the “showering” of gifts on mother and baby-to-be. For this reason, baby showers are hosted by a female friend of the family, and not by herself, her own mother or mother-in-law: that would make the expectation of gifts seem greedy. The gifts range from practical to aesthetic and fun, from handmade to very expensive.

Games are a large part of the party. There are a lot of guessing games: guess the due-date, the gender, the mother’s girth, the flavor of the baby food. I like to think that these games are our culture’s secularized, sanitized and light-hearted versions of the more solemn religious rituals that marked these occasions in the past.
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