The tradition of giving gifts to expectant parents has been around for centuries, including the times of ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and the Romans. In China, the expectant mother's own mother traditionally buys the child's layette (a collection of clothes and bedding for a new baby). A month before the baby is due, she sends a package of clothing for her expectant daughter called ‘tsue shen’, which means ‘hastening the delivery’. The package includes a white cloth to wrap around the newborn child. Three days after the baby arrives, the maternal grandmother can then visit her new grandchild bringing the rest of the clothes and baby equipment.
However, it wasn’t until relatively recently that modern Western cultures began to give gifts before the baby’s birth. ‘Baby Showers’ as we know them today first became popular in the United States after World War II, at the beginning of the baby boom. Family and friends were anxious to welcome this new generation and show their support for young couples who might otherwise be struggling to meet the financial demands of impending parenthood. Here in the UK it was more common to give gifts at the baby’s Christening or in some parts of the country, to give the child money by placing it in the baby’s pram. But new traditions have begun to form, and it is now recognised by many that the baby essentials needed in those first few months are different from the type of gifts people like to give at a Christening (or naming ceremony), and so the two events have become separate entities.
The traditional baby showers popular in Midwest America were historically a simple and rather sedate affair, with ladies enjoying dessert and coffee together before watching the mother-to-be open her gifts. These days, they have developed into more of a relaxed party – with lots of food, decorations and even some games! And we like to think that here in the UK we can adopt a lot of the ideas popular in the US, while putting our own British spin on things!
Lending a hand to prospective parents clearly has a lot of merit, and the idea of celebrating the anticipated arrival of a new baby is catching on fast. So whether you’re a stickler for tradition, or keen to join a growing trend, go ahead and show your support for the mum-to-be in your life.