Having a baby is a joyous occasion and expectant parents are often eager to celebrate with friends and family. A baby shower is a celebration of a new baby, and is both given before and after the birth. Baby showers are practised around the world in different cultures and have different names and rituals, but are rooted around the idea of preparing expectant parents for their new roles. If you are looking for interesting ways to spice up a baby shower, here are some traditions used by different cultures around the world to celebrate this occasion.
In many cultures, baby showers are a formal affair and traditionally consist of a large banquet dinner. Food is a main event at baby showers in many cultures, and contributes to the bonding and merrymaking aspect of the event.
What you can do: Think about preparing food for guests, such as snacks, sweets, or drinks. An alternative option would be to make a potluck-themed gathering, in which guests bring something to share.
Western traditions for baby showers primarily focus on providing the mother with all of the material needs for the baby, where guests bring a gift. In the US, many women even start a baby registry to indicate what she needs. These can include furniture, toys, sanitary equipment, blankets, clothes, and other accessories. This can be pretty useful for new parents, who initially have very little gear for caring for a newborn.
Gifts for the mother are also common, like creams, personal trinkets, or comfort items. This can be a time where friends and family can recommend specific things that have helped them through the early months of parenthood. In Chinese culture, guests bring gifts of money in red envelopes. The color red is associated with good luck and good fortune.
What you can do: Leave the gifts until the end of the merrymaking, so that they are not the focus of the baby shower, but rather the cherry on top of the cake.
Focusing on the power of women
In addition to featuring gifts for the baby and mother, many traditions around the world are also focused on preparing the expectant mother for motherhood. These traditions also often integrate rituals such as singing and dancing, and focus on the spiritual aspects of pending motherhood more than gifts.
The Blessingway is a spiritual and private healing ceremony that originates from Navajo tradition that celebrates a woman’s journey into motherhood. A modern take on the traditional Blessingway has become a popular alternative to the Western baby shower, and is being practiced more frequently in recent years by non-Navajo mothers.
The Blessingway aims to protect the home, dispel misfortune, and bless a pregnancy. It is a time for the mother-to-be to gather with the women closest to her and cultivate positive energy for her upcoming birth experience. It is meant to instill a sense of confidence in the ability of her body to birth her baby.
During the ceremony, guests sit in a circle and one by one, offer their blessing to the expectant mother. The blessing can be in the form of a few words of wisdom, a poem, a prayer, or a song. This gives women a chance to share their stories and bond over shared experiences.
What you can do: Ask your guests to come prepared with a few words of wisdom, and set aside a time for them to bestow their “blessing” onto the expecting mother.
During the Blessingway, each woman brings a special bead that will represent their blessing. The beads are then strung together into a necklace or bracelet, which serve as a physical reminder of the support of strong women in her life, so that she may call upon this strength during labor.
This idea also often takes the form of a flower crown, where guests bring flowers instead of beads, which are strung into a crown for thee mother to be. Birth flags are often painted by each guest and linked, as a visual reminder of each guest. During the baby shower in many regions, the mother’s belly is often painted using acrylics, henna, or body cast, to visually celebrate the pending birth. This blesses the belly, and lifts the spirits of the group.
What you can do: Ask your guests to each bring a bead or charm that can be strung together to form a necklace or bracelet, that the mother can wear during her birthing process. This is a fun activity, and guests can be creative about what they choose to symbolize. If you choose to paint the belly, get your guests to each draw something, to mark their presence.
The traditional Hindu baby shower, called the godh bharai, is meant to shower the expectant mother with blessings and fill her lap with gifts, fruits and sweets. These gifts are meant to represent the abundant joys of having a child, and the surrounding women adorn the mother-to-be with colorful jewelry and bangle bracelets. These rituals are meant for the mother-to-be to relax, and have her friends and family shower her with affection and care before the daunting task ahead of her.
What you can do: Have a girls night, where you pamper the mother to be, such as manicures, henna, spa, or other type of relaxing activity.
During the godh bharai, Indian women indulge in a night of singing, dancing, games, to bring merriment around the occasion of welcoming a child. Games are featured in many Western baby showers as well, with themes ranging from silly to heartfelt.
What you can do: Host a night of games where the guests can have fun and be actively engaged in the event.
Celebrating the baby after birth
In Tibet, parents celebrate the arrival of the baby, rather than having a party before birth. This celebration, called a pang-sai (baby cleansing), takes place within the first week after birth. The guest of honor is the one who names the child, and is often another family member.
Afghan parents also celebrate babies after birth, during a sixth night celebration that takes place six nights after birth. A feast and party commemorate the event, and guests can meet the baby. Likewise, showers in China are held after the birth of a baby, as holding them before is considered unlucky. In France, parents celebrate the baby’s first birthday with a party.
What you can do: Ask the mother-to-be whether she would like to celebrate before or after the birth. There are advantages and disadvantages for both scenarios.
However you choose to plan your baby shower, it is important that the parents-to-be feel supported by their community and loved ones. Putting your own spin on traditions around the world might make your event more unique and rewarding.