Celebrating birth is a universal human experience. Here are some of the world’s traditions
When someone you’re close to is expecting a child, it can be tricky to know what to get. There are so many options these days, and it’s even harder if you don’t know the gender of the new baby. In America, we love to throw lavish baby showers where mother and child get genuinely spoilt, and these ideas of celebrating pregnancy and birth exist across the world.
While these traditions vary wildly from country to country, they do often have a common thread – of spending time with friends and family, giving gifts to the mom-to-be and baby, eating delicious food, and having fun!
Let’s have a look at a few baby shower and gifting traditions from around the world. For more ideas, visit http://bitsybugboutique.com/collections/baby-girl-rompers.
In Tibet, births are celebrated via a cleansing ritual called ‘pang sai.’ The goal is to cleanse the child of their journey into the world to grow strong and healthy. Tibetans believe that children are born alongside ‘fowls’ that are washed away by the ceremony. A local monk visits to bless the baby with wisdom, and the family takes part in worship rituals led by the monk. More family members visit the home every day for a week before the child is formally named.
While friends are allowed to visit during this process, they must stay outside the home during this time – the only family may enter the house. People outside the family, or the monk, are not allowed to make physical contact with the child until they are one month old.
In France, it’s not traditional for babies to receive gifts before they’re born, or in celebration of their birth. Instead, French parents celebrate their babies when they reach their first birthday.
A French first birthday party is pretty traditional, with friends and family invited to celebrate with the family, but guests will usually bring a gift for the mother as well as the child. It’s like a combination of an American baby shower and a first birthday party.
As in France, in China, baby showers are held after a baby has been born. It is thought that showers held before birth are bad luck.
A Chinese baby shower is usually a formal event, with guests treated to s sit-down banquet dinner. The traditional gift is money, presented in a red envelope, and given to both baby and parents. The containers must be red as in China; this color is strongly associated with luck and good fortune. A gold bracelet with a ‘lifelong lock’ is sometimes given, with jade charms and jewelry also popular.
In South Africa, gifts are given at a baby shower usually held when the mom-to-be is around six months pregnant – a little earlier than most showers in the United States. While they are similar to American shower in many ways, South African showers are usually a surprise. They also have a different name – a ‘stork party.’
In Brazil, red shoes are a traditional baby gift thought to bring good luck and protect the wearer, the baby, from ‘evil eyes.’ How the shoes are given may vary from person to person; some believe that the shoes should be gifted to an expectant mother as soon as possible, where others prefer to gift knitted red shoes for the baby to wear home from the hospital.
The shoes are red because, in Brazil, red is the color of life and energy. Gifting red shoes ensures that the baby will be gifted with long life, protection, and good fortune.
In India, Hindu culture has a special baby shower thrown in the seventh month of pregnancy. Called Godh Bharai, or sometimes Godh Bharna, it is a family affair with no non-relatives present. All the attendees are women, as with many other traditional showers in other places.
During Godh Bharai, which is always held in the mother-to-be’s home, she is dressed in a traditional sari and wears conventional bridal makeup. The mom-to-be then sits in a chair while presented, one at a time, with her gifts. Each gift-giver also whispers a blessing into her ear.
Silver bangles are often gifted for Godh Bharai, as these are believed to bring good fortune and prosperity to the new family. They are also thought to bring intelligence and success to the new baby. Coconuts are also frequently given – considered to bring prosperity because of its sweet and nutritious nature. Money is always welcome!
One of the most essential elements of Godh Bharai is ‘nada chhadi,’ given by the mother-to-be’s sister in law. This tradition involves the mom sipping sweetened milk that has been colored orange with saffron. And the sister-in-law is then tying a yellow cord around her wrist. The wire protects both the mother and the child during the rest of the pregnancy, warding off evil spirits and keeping them both healthy.
A chullo is a traditional hat worn in several South American countries, including Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. The hat is knitted and has ear flaps and a strap that ties under the chin. It is made from Alpaca wool.
In Ecuadorean tradition, fathers-to-be knit their child’s first chullo themselves to welcome them into the world. So sweet!
Silver is one of the United Kingdom’s most long-standing baby gift traditions, dating back to the Middle Ages. Back then, families would gift expectant parents with silver as an investment for their future – this is where the term ‘born with a silver spoon in their mouth’ comes from. Silver has continued to be a popular gift over the intervening centuries, with the practice expanding to include rattles, bangles, photo frames, and other items.
In more recent years, United Kingdom traditions have moved much more in line with American ones. Gifts such as diaper genies, hampers, and so on are commonplace, and other cultures such as gender reveal parties, and shower games are also increasingly popular.
Silver is also a traditional baby gift in Russia, but for different reasons than in the UK. They are intended to project wealth in the baby’s future, but also for baby to suck or chew on as they begin teething – silver has natural antibacterial properties that can be soothing for sore gums.
In the Dominican Republic, both parents are invited to the pre-birth celebration. It is always a surprise – in as much as established traditions can ever really be a surprise – so the parents never know precisely when it’s going to happen. At the party, dances are danced, games are played, and gifts are given – but just for the mother-to-be.
American baby gifting traditions are well-known and well-established, with toys, clothes, keepsakes, diaper hampers, and pretty much anything you can imagine commonplace on gift tables. Baby showers in the US are often large, elaborate affairs, with professional decorators and caterers, sometimes brought in to make the extra event special.
In Afghanistan, the birth of a new baby is celebrated on the sixth night of their life. This is so that all involved know that the baby has arrived safely and is healthy. On ‘sixth night’ celebrations, the family throws a massive party for the new parents with a feast and dancing. Family and friends bring gifts – everyone knows the baby’s gender so they can give tips appropriately – and there are congratulations all round.
At a Bulgarian baby shower, food is eaten, but there are no individual plates or silverware. This is done, so that family members and friends are forced to become physically closer to each other, sharing all their food, and creating a moment of real bonding ahead of the new birth.
Another Bulgarian tradition involves a large square scarf being passed around everyone at the table. Everyone places a certain amount of money (there is no set amount) inside the scarf, and the baby’s father then ties it into a knot. The scarf is thrown onto the top of a wardrobe or other tall item of furniture, as a symbolic ‘rainy day fund’ for the baby.
In Egypt, a small ornament shaped like the palm of a hand and decorated with a blue eye is traditionally presented to newborns as a talisman to protect against the ‘evil eye.’ It is usually worn on the baby’s clothing. In the past, some Egyptian mothers also tried to ward off the evil eye by dressing their male children in female attire, piercing their ears, or giving them a girl’s name.
First Nations communities in Canada do hold baby showers before a child is born. Still, they hold a separate naming ceremony after birth, plus a third ‘walking out’ service after the baby takes their first steps. At these ceremonies, gifts are often designed to reflect what parents or loved ones hope for a child later in their life, such as equipment they may use for a future career, or something creative.