History of the Baby Shower: Since When Have Geordies Spoilt Unborn Children?

At the Newcastle History Society, we’ve decided to inject a little personality into our usually drab and dry historical diatribes. In this issue, Anna Markie is going to talk about how the baby shower has taken the UK by storm in recent years…

We used to make fun of the ridiculous nature of the American baby shower, but it’s very much time for this writer to hang her head in shame. From major newspapers reporting on the trend’s boom to run-of-the-mill bloggers waxing lyrical about their most recent baby shower, it seems that it’s now a mainstay of the British way of life.

The Daily Mail has even put some figures together: £220 million is spent on a yearly basis, which is about £50 per woman in the UK. It’s even estimated that 1/8 of girls spend over £100 per shower. Staggering figures, that’s for sure.

Where Did They Come From Anyway?

While the term ‘baby shower’ is relatively new, the idea actually spans several millennia. I suppose it’s not surprising that people have been excited about cute little babies since the beginning of time. The Egyptians and Greeks were a little more logical and held celebrations once the baby had been born – perhaps wise considering the mortality rates in the ancient world.

The Middle Ages brought the Christian aspect to the whole affair, with priests coming to the fore and people more worried about confessing their sins, avoiding death during childbirth and baptism of the newborn. The latter usually occurred on the day it was born, with the mother not allowed to attend.

So far, nothing close to what we’re used to today. Until the Victorian era, that is…

The 19th century is really when we can start seeing the contours of the modern-day baby shower. Post-birth, ladies would get together to celebrate by having a very British cup of tea. The Americans really ran with the idea during the baby boom era. Once material goods became more affordable for the average family, the baby shower was born. Us Brits only decided to make the trend our own half a century later.

Why I Don’t Like Baby Showers

The thing that bothers me about this trend is just how much financial strain it puts on families all over Tyneside. While we’re constantly reading about enforced austerity measures, zero-hour contracts, and living costs going up on what seems to be a daily basis, we’re still expected to fork out for a child that’s not yet experienced the wonders of Newcastle United.

My advice (not that you’re asking for it)? Instead of focusing on how much you’re spending or asking for gifts if you’re throwing one yourself, why not make it about getting friends and family together? Personally, I hardly ever see those that are dear to me all in one place, so it’d be nice to throw a party without making people feel like they need to splash out with money they don’t have.