Baby Traditions and Celebrations…So much more then a shower!

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  • July 9, 2015

Baby Traditions and Celebrations!

How did–or how will–you celebrate the birth of your baby? Once upon a time, it was baby showers and baby showers only. In the 1950s, baby showers were a big deal event, especially in suburban communities (some developers nicknamed the said communities “fertility valley”). Traditionally, baby shower hostesses and guests, around 10 in total, dressed in their Sunday best, gave modest gifts, played low activity games, and feasted on tea party fair.  Suburban houses were, literally, constructed for married couples to have babies and often included a “family room.” As times and fashion changed in the 60’s and 70’s, more casual dress was appropriate and cocktails were introduced as beverage choices.

When I was pregnant with my first son in 1991, baby showers had changed but still resembled the baby boomer years: food, games, gifts, and women. I didn’t want to know the sex of my unborn child nor did I want to share any names we were considering. I didn’t even have one specific one in mind; I had three. I had two showers in total-one thrown by friends and the other by family. I noticed a shift at my (younger) cousin Kristine’s shower. The cake was for “Allison” and she kept talking about Allie. I had no idea what was going on but finally said, “Who in the hell is Allie? No one here is named Allie!”  She laughed and explained that Allison, or Allie (nickname already?), was her unborn daughter. The name suits Allie and she is now an adorable elementary schooler.

 By the time I had my last child, nearly 21 years later, things had changed quite a bit! Here are some different ways of celebrating a birth:

  1. Gender reveal

A party can be co-ed, where the baby’s gender is revealed through the cutting of a cake (pink or blue inside), opening up a box filled with pink or blue balloons, or other creative ways. Sometimes the reveal is by one or both parents and sometimes it is a surprise to them as well! The host might be the only one who knows! The idea is to keep decorations pink and blue; incorporate guessing games and make sure you build momentum. Have your camera and kleenex ready, it’s a lovely moment.

  1. Baby sprinkle

The baby “sprinkle” is for the subsequent child. Baby showers are the firstborn’s rite of passage but the second (or third, etc.) child will likely use the hand-me-down crib and larger items. The “sprinkle” is a gesture of love and celebration but on a smaller scale. Gifts are absolutely appropriate and appreciated.

  1. Baby sparkle

A glammed up baby sprinkle. A little more glitz and glamour celebrating mama-to-be.

  1. Meet the baby

The party after the baby arrives is ideal for families who moved out of their hometown or for those who don’t want gifts; more of a brunch, open house feel, and it is ideal to wait until the baby is around 1 month old.

  1. Co-ed

Yes! We have come a long way! Co-ed parties include both parents, friends and family. They have more of a party feel, include interactive games (like how fast men can drink a beer out of a baby bottle) and better suited in a park or backyard. Often, co-ed helps expecting parents lean on each other during the overwhelming amount of attention the baby-in-the-belly brings. Helpful tip: registering for gifts is fun and a great way for couples to bond. It is acceptable to have multiple registries and our friends at can help you find meaningful gifts not sold in stores. (Remember to consider gifts for your doula, home-cooked meals, and diaper service).

Celebrate your special time in the way that feels right to you! Some moms opt for a small brunch out, co-workers may host one at work and pitch in for a larger gift (think stroller or car seat), potluck in the park, giftless celebrations, and sometimes multiple events are necessary if you have a larger family. Don’t be afraid to share your wishes with your host or hostess (in my case hostesses). Having a baby is a life changing event and joyous occasion, so stay in your comfort zone to enjoy the ride.

Jake McKenna is a mother, writer and 4th generation San Francisco native. She studied early childhood education at S.F.C.C. and is a certified SBD doula, focusing in postpartum, certified in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders through Postpartum Support international and is also a P.S.I. member. In her spare time you might find her walking around San Francisco.  

*Photo by Clever Cupcakes


  • Lily says:

    In my community in Chico, CA, the sister-women host blessing ways for the mother-to-be and baby. Women come and bless up the mamma with gifts, potluck food, massage, etc. We created an altar for one mamma and then shared our intention / blessing for her motherhood journey, then picked a pinch of wildflower seeds and planted them in a pot. Then we poured water from the center of our circle that we had blessed into the pot and gave it to her. We also threw a ball of red yarn around the circle and wove ourselves into a tapestry to connect ourselves together in a web of support. then we cut off sections and each made a bracelet. At the end, everyone goes home with a candle that we all light when the mamma goes into labor. Blessing ways are beautiful… <3

    I also love this excerpt about another birth ritual:
    “Now, how is one’s purpose learned? When a woman is pregnant, a hearing ritual is performed. In this ritual, elders will ask the unborn child, “Who are you? Why are you coming here? Why do you bother, this world is too messed up. What can we do to ease your journey?”
    The baby takes over the mother’s voice and speaks back, “This is who I am. I coming to help uphold the knowledge of the ancestors,” or, “I am coming to do this and this.” And based on that information, the elders will prepare an appropriate ritual space in which to receive the child and make sure that everything is ready here before the child is born.

    After birth, the elders make sure they surround the child with things that will help her remember and accomplish the purpose she has described. And when she reaches adolescence and goes through initiation, she has to go back to the time before she was born to remember what she said. This is because growing up is a process of forgetting; this body, as the elders say, takes away certain things from us as we grow. Up until the age of five or six, children remember things perfectly, but after that something starts to happen in the body that makes them forget.”
    — from “The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient African Teachings in the Ways of Relationships” by Sobonfu Somé

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