Oh Baby, How Times Have Changed: Baby Showers Past and Present

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Baby showers are one of life’s most momentous and time-honored occasions. These parties celebrating a mother-to-be have been occurring for thousands of years. In fact, they have their roots in Ancient Rome and Greece. Over the course of time, the way we celebrate a baby’s upcoming birth has changed—but the loving intention still remains the same.

Oh Baby How Times Have Changed Baby Showers Past and Present

Whether you’re a host planning an upcoming baby shower or an excited mommy with a child on the way, you’ll be fascinated by festivities past and present. Discover below what it was like to have and attend a celebration in different time periods. It’s not only an interesting way to learn about baby showers, but you’ll also have conversation starters the next time you’re an honoree or guest!

Baby Showers in Ancient Times

The Ancient Greeks and Romans were the first in recorded history to hold lavish parties for mom and her baby. Unlike today’s celebrations, however, the shower occurred after the birth. About a week after the child was born, gifts were offered to mom and a large meal was served. It also marked a major social milestone. In these days, pregnant women were thought to be unclean. Since the new mother was no longer pregnant, she could now return to the public areas of her village and enjoy time with friends and family.

In Ancient Egypt, mom and baby were purified after the birth during a holy ceremony. The people closest to the family were invited to watch the event and celebrate the infant boy’s or girl’s arrival. Food and drink were served, and guests brought offerings to secure the mother’s good fortune.

Celebrations for Baby in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

During the Middle Ages, a baby’s baptism served as the shower celebration. Community members and loved ones gathered at the church to see the child receive the blessing and to also witness their rite of passage as a new member of the Christian faith. The mother named the baby’s godparents, who gave the infant religious gifts like a crucifix or rosary. Family and friends also showered the baby with presents. A feast often occurred afterward.

Renaissance traditions were also full of religious rites and superstitions. Taking a cue from the Ancient Greeks and Romans, women were sequestered at home until the baby was born safely. Once the infant was known to be healthy, loved ones could bring them gifts. A so-called birth tray was presented to the new mother, often laden with candies, nourishing snacks and beautiful feminine artwork.

Oh Baby How Times Have Changed Baby Showers Past and Present

Victorian Era Baby Showers

In the mid-1800s, celebrations for baby begin to evolve—and the idea for today’s baby shower was born. While the event happened after the child’s birth, it was much like modern parties. Only female friends and family were invited. Everyone was expected to bring a homemade gift for the child.

The grandmother of the baby was considered an important part of their life and, as such, was expected to give something made of silver. Attendees enjoyed tea and cookies or biscuits. They also played games and socialized.

Honoring the Mom-to-Be in the 20th Century

For the most part, baby showers happened after birth until the 1940s and 1950s. During this time, most of the world was recovering from World War II and saw the gift-giving celebration as a way to help a family get a good head start. The United States was also in the middle of a baby boom. The free clothing, bedding and cloth diapering supplies given by family and friends were a big financial help, especially when raising multiple children.

Parties were still entirely female and hosted at home by a relative like an aunt or cousin. Shower themes also still remained basic, especially since pregnant women were unable to determine ahead of time if they were having a boy or girl.

As the century wore on, however, celebrations did become more unique. Ultrasounds to determine baby’s sex meant that party hosts could decorate in blue or pink. Women also began having their showers at restaurants, public parks and banquet halls. Food could be served as a potluck, a sit-down dinner or buffet style. Fun activities still remained popular in the middle and late 20th century. Baby bingo and guessing games about the child’s birthday and weight usually took place before it was time to open gifts.

Oh Baby How Times Have Changed Baby Showers Past and Present

Today’s Baby Showers 

Many of today’s moms-to-be are continuing to enjoy the baby shower of years past. It is still commonplace for modern women to invite only female guests, play traditional shower games and adorn a room or party hall in blue or pink. While this type of celebration will never go out of style, it is now acceptable to go a little more avant-garde than you could in the 20th century.

According to modern moms, baby shower rules are meant to be broken. Coed events honoring the mother and father are now quite common. Themes are as creative as birthday parties and weddings. A host may choose to hold festivities outside, complete with a fancy brunch, string quartet and flowery decor evoking the spirit of an enchanted garden. It can even be casual, like a poolside pizza party, or a rustic event complete with grilled meats and woodland style decorations inside a sprawling mountain cabin.

No matter how the shower looks or what types of refreshments are available, partygoers still play games. The mother-to-be or parents-to-be open baby gifts from their baby registry, while everyone from grandparents to co-workers offer their blessings, advice and well wishes. Guests take home favors like cupcakes, bath products or small bottles of champagne to open on baby’s birthday.

Planning an Unforgettable Baby Shower

If you’re interested in holding a memorable shower for a loved one or are celebrating the upcoming birth of your first child, it’s easier to plan than you think! Begin with the basics that have stood the test of time, like inviting family, opening baby gifts and offering refreshments. Besides that, the type of party you have is entirely up to you! Whether you want to rent an entire cafe, serve their food and skip the games in favor of a social hour, or prefer to whisk away your closest friends to a coed party at the beach, anything goes. The important part is that mom and baby are the focus and that the child receives the newborn clothes, feeding supplies and diapering supplies that he or she needs.

Now that you know a little more about baby showers past and present, it’s time to get creative. Have fun dreaming up themes, menus and activities. Someday, you’ll look back on the party as one of the most cherished experiences of your lifetime. After all, it’s one of the biggest celebrations across human history!

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