The concept of celebrating the birth of a new child has ancient origins. It has historically been a time for friends and family to gather together around the new child and his or her parents; many times offering food or handmade gifts to the new family. Traditionally these celebrations occurred at least one month after the birth of the child, when the christening of the child was to take place, or in order to coincide with another religious tradition for the debut of a new child.
It was not until the late 19th century when Victorian women began hosting tea parties for expecting mothers before the birth of the baby. The parties were attended by women only, and it was traditional for the women to carry an umbrella to the special affair—which is how the umbrella became symbolic for baby showers.
However, despite being a recent phenomenon, baby showers have developed their own traditions and etiquette.
The first tradition relates to who should host the baby shower. It is improper for a family member to host a baby shower. Instead, a close friend or distant relative such as a cousin or an aunt should be the one to host the shower. The reasoning behind this rule was that it would allow the family of the expecting mother to avoid giving off the impression that they were just trying to collect gifts. However, today this rule is not strictly observed. It is considered appropriate for a relative such as a sister, mother, or mother-in-law to host or co-host a baby shower.
The second tradition relates to who should be invited to the shower. It is assumed that close friends and immediate family members should be included on the guest list, but traditionally men were not included. However, today it is perfectly normal for men to be invited to the shower as well as casual friends, spouses of friends, and distant relatives. It is always best for the host of the shower to consult with the expecting mother first to be sure she is comfortable with the people included on the guest list.