Baby Shower Traditions: Discover the History of 9 Cultures Around the World

A new baby is on the way! What a perfect reason to celebrate.Whether through an in-person baby shower, a virtual/online baby shower, or a combination of both, there is no greater way to honor and recognize the mom-to-be than with a fun-filled event bursting with love, laughter, and joy. No matter the type of shower you plan to have, you will want to make sure this is a celebration to remember, a gathering of friends and family to help the new parents get everything they need.  

Communities have been celebrating the birth of babies for as long as women have been having babies. After all, motherhood is a pretty big deal. To mark this ceremonial rite of passage, the baby shower has been a long-standing tradition in many countries around the world. Ritualistic goin nature, the idea is to shower the mom-to-be with gifts she will need for her new baby. While gifts in the past may have been focused more on needs (food, diapers, clothing), some of today’s baby shower gifts often cater to the wants (a self-rocking crib, anyone?)

As the first virtual baby shower service online, WebBabyShower has helped thousands of families celebrate new additions to their families with easy-to-set-up online baby showers, connecting family and friends near and far. So, we know a thing or two about the history of baby showers.

What Is the Tradition of a Baby Shower?

You may be wondering if baby showers are relatively new traditions or if they have their origins in ancient times. While they certainly gained considerable momentum in the United States in the 1940s, increasing in popularity over the years, the tradition of having a baby shower actually has its roots as far back as Ancient Egypt. During that time, however, many of the rituals occurred after the birth of the baby.  

For example, the Ancient Greeks celebrated pregnancies after the birth, using a shout after the baby was born to announce its arrival. Then five to seven days later, a ceremony took place, welcoming the baby into the family.

In Medieval Europe, a more subdued observance took place. Both spiritual and physical health were acknowledged, and women would have the opportunity to confess their sins to priests while they were in labor. After the delivery, the baby would be baptized and the child’s godparents would present gifts, like silver spoons.

By the time the Renaissance Era arrived, the idea that gifts should be given to expectant women took hold, so mothers-the-be were given everything from food and kitchen items to decorations.. It was not until the Victorian Era that a more modern-day approach to baby showers took shape, as women would host tea parties for the new mom after the birth of her baby.

The baby showers we are familiar with today in America began during the Baby Boom era just after World War II. This was a time when the mom-to-be was  “showered” with gifts that otherwise might be too expensive for the new parents to purchase on their own. This baby shower was usually hosted by a close family member or female friends and was designed for female guests only.

Fast-forward to 2021, and the baby showers of today, while still celebrating the arrival of the new bundle of joy, have expanded to include fathers and other male family members and friends, games, party favors, and more. The central idea is still the same, but the methods of delivery (no pun intended!) may just be a bit different.

While there are many common denominators regarding baby shower traditions around the world, there are also several twists to this celebration. Regardless of its origins, the baby shower still holds its place as the ceremony that focuses on the mom-to-be (and now the dad, too!) and what their family and friends believe they both want and need as they anticipate the arrival of their little miracle.

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Image from: @e1_yankee

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Who Organizes the Baby Shower?

Because the concept of baby showers has been around for ages, this has led to a playbook of sorts that dictates who arranges, organizes, and pays for the celebration. Tradition dictates the mother, sister, mother-in-law, or close female friend organizes and hosts the baby shower. Historically, they would be the ones who would decide on the theme, favors, food, and invitations.

In modern times, however, anyone can host a baby shower – even the parents-to-be!Because times have changed, the etiquette behind who should throw the event is not as firmly dictated as in the past, as there are so many reasons why one might want to host a baby shower. Maybe the dad-to-be wants to be very involved or the new mom wants to host the shower virtually. These are all things to consider. But once you figure out who will host the baby shower, then you have other matters to consider.

When Should You Host a Baby Shower?

Before you have a baby shower, the host will need to decide which traditions to incorporate, determine who to invite, and, of course, set the date.

Baby showers are usually held four to six weeks before the anticipated due date of the baby. That way, everyone has already heard about the pregnancy and the mom-to-be is getting ready to welcome her child, but it’s early enough to potentially avoid a premature arrival of the most anticipated guest of honor!

Some parents, whether for religious or cultural reasons, may choose to receive gifts after the baby is born. In fact, some cultures deem it bad luck to  acquire any baby items before the baby is born. If that’s the case, the baby shower host could plan the celebration before the birth but  set a date and time for the shower after the baby is born.

Now that you have a brief tutorial on the origins of the baby shower, let’s take a peek at some of the baby shower traditions followed around the world. 

baby shower traditions covid
Image from: @realasmoms

9 Popular Baby Shower Traditions

Before baby showers gained popularity, there were rituals. Rituals are symbolic of a rite of passage and are purposefully designed. Around the world, motherhood has been celebrated with traditions from local culture.   Many of the old rituals were used to welcome the new mother into her new role within the community. (Fun fact: in southern Italy, an old custom was to bring pigeon soup to the new mother.)

Because we now typically belong to many communities (work, school, family, and various social groups, for example), baby showers are now hosted by and within those communities. Perhaps a workplace friend might host one or a group of longtime gal pals will throw a baby shower.

No matter where in the world a new baby is about to make his or her debut, there is probably some sort of exciting celebration planned to honor and celebrate the new arrival. Take a Mexican baby shower for example; very family orientated and plenty of Mexican baby shower games for guests to enjoy. Here are nine baby shower traditions practiced around the world.

1.)   Hindu Godh Bharai

Traditions abound within communities in India when it comes to celebrating the arrival of a new baby. In an Indian baby shower, which is usually thrown during the seventh month of pregnancy, guests pray for the good health of both mother and baby, as well as for a safe delivery. Guests also present the mother-to-be with gifts, as “godh bharai” translates to “fill the lap.”

Image from: @daisydoleytaid

2.)   Afghani Sixth Night

The name of this tradition kind of speaks for itself. On the sixth night after the birth of the baby, people celebrate the child’s arrival. This is usually done to give the mom and baby time to rest, and it assures everyone they are fine and doing well. 

This celebration is usually highlighted by a grand feast and even some shaking and shimmying — you know, getting out on the dance floor! This definitely seems more like a big party than just a baby shower, doesn’t it? 

As with any shower, guests bring gifts for the baby and shower the child and the new parents with words of congratulations.

3.)   South African Stork Party

Did someone mention food, games, and gifts? Count me in! Instead of being referred to as a baby shower, this South African event is called a stork party and is often a surprise celebration hosted by a friend of the mom-to-be. Stork parties mimic traditional American baby showers due to the influence of American television in South Africa. The cake is typically the center of attention. In fact, stork party cakes are such a strong tradition that many local bakeries have carved out their own niche in making these types of cakes. Due to the high demand for stork parties in South Africa, people actually have full-time jobs as event planners to organize them!

4.)   Dominican Evening Fiesta

I am beginning to think that baby showers in America need to up their game a bit. A Dominican evening fiesta is yet another upbeat celebration that involves food and dancing. This party is held to celebrate the upcoming arrival of the new baby and includes both men and women. Usually organized as a surprise party, it is kept secret from the expectant parents.

In addition to gifts being given to the new parents, lots of games are played throughout the festivities, and the event can go on for hours until the last song is played and the wee hours of the morning arrive.

5.)   Tibetan Pang-sai

Usually held within the first week after the birth of the baby, Pang-sai translates to “cleansing of the baby.” Basically, this ritual is done as a way to clean the baby after  they have traveled into this life. Family members and other guests bring food and clothing for the baby and the new parents. People bring a variety of local foods and drinks as a way to show their hope that the child has a full life. This party usually has a guest of honor other than the baby and the new parents, and that person is given the honor of bestowing a name upon the new baby.

6.)   Chinese Full Moon Celebration

Organized as a formal affair, this type of baby shower is held after the birth of the baby. The Chinese consider it bad luck to celebrate with a baby shower before the baby arrives. The event is held either during the first or second full moon and involves a large feast. 

baby shower traditions chinese
Image from: @blownawayparty

Because traditions are highly-regarded within this culture, guests present red envelopes containing money to the new parents. Within Chinese communities, red is symbolic of good fortune. With a variety of traditions interwoven into the fabric of Chinese culture, the full moon celebration is no exception.

7.)   First Birthday Celebrations in France

Baby showers in France are usually held when the child turns one year of age. So, this could be considered more of a first birthday celebration as opposed to simply a baby shower. The arrival of a new baby is something to celebrate, but at least they give the new mom a year to adjust! Both men and women are invited and guests bring gifts for both the baby and the mother. 

Image from: @paolascreations

8.)   Spanish Baby Shower

If you attend a Spanish baby shower, you might think you are at an American baby shower. Roughly a month before the baby is due, a group of the expectant mother’s closest female friends and family members gather at her home to celebrate. The party involves gifts, food, and games. One of the biggest aspects of this shower centers around decorating the house —  it’s a pretty big deal and creativity is given free rein! At the end of the baby shower, guests rarely leave empty-handed and may return home with a small party favor of some sort or perhaps even an ultrasound image of the baby.

9.)   Traditional United States Baby Shower

Most likely you are familiar with the American baby shower, which boasts a theme, food, drinks, games, and favors. There are gifts to open and photos to take, and most importantly, the new mom is treated as a queen. 

In decades past, baby showers in America primarily involved only female guests. Food was served, but the main emphasis was on the cake. (Sugar rush, anyone?) Usually, a church group would host the event and the dress code leaned towards formal. But baby showers have changed over the past couple of decades,transforming from a more formal and stuffy affair that required you to wear your Sunday best to a more laid-back and low-key setting where jeans and other casual wear is acceptable. The celebration even includes more of a meal or has a potluck setting — not just dessert. I have to admit, I prefer the latter. I was always so uncomfortable wearing heels and a dress on a Saturday afternoon!

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The Virtual Baby Shower

Online baby showers have gained considerable popularity over the years. They are another amazing way to celebrate a growing family as you shower parents-to-be with gifts, love, and friendship.There are even special perks that go along with virtual baby showers, such as reduced costs for the hosts and convenience for the guests. And many of the things you love and enjoy about in-person baby showers can seamlessly transition to the online format.

If distance or other factors (think: COVID-19) keep you from having an in-person shower, a virtual baby shower can be just as magical and memorable.WebBabyShower is the No. 1 leader in virtual baby showers and has helped more than 10,000 families host some pretty amazing virtual baby showers. We invite you to experience a WebBabyShower — maybe you’ll even create some new and exciting traditions of your own!

Image from: @nikki_noo123

Showing Love and Support for the Family of the New Baby

We hope this list has opened your eyes as to how cultures around the world celebrate a growing family. No matter the approach or the type of event, the focus remains the same: on the parents and their new baby. This translates to happiness and blessings in any language and culture.

We’ve come a long way since the origins of the baby shower. Baby showers have certainly evolved in terms of etiquette and style, and today it is appropriate to host co-ed showers, enjoy a variety of games, indulge in some food and libations, and offer special favors to the guests.

A baby shower is the first opportunity for family and friends to gather and show love and support for the new baby and parents. Baby showers also help the parents-to-be by providing them with items they need to help support the baby. 

Did you enjoy this article? What traditions do you follow when throwing a baby shower? 

Dedicated to getting at least 30,000 steps a day, Ann Butenas begins her day around 4:30 each morning. Ann successfully (the jury is still out on this!) raised three sons while juggling the demands of entrepreneurship and a writing career. She writes for HERLIFE Magazine and is a Senior Writer for Healthy Kansas City Magazine. Ann is working on a new book, Potty Training the Parents.

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