My best friend is expecting a baby this fall and I want to do something to celebrate, but I've been told Jews don't have baby showers. Why not? Any ideas what we can do instead?
To Shower or Not to Shower?
This is a great example of superstition turned into tradition turned into, I don't know, implicit cultural pressure without a lot of understanding (is there one word that means all that?). Traditionally, Jews have held the belief that to celebrate something before it happens is to invite the Evil Eye to thwart those plans before they come to fruition. Today, many Jewish women, at least the ones I know, say they're not going to have a shower because their mothers didn't and their grandmothers didn't. Even if the original fear of the Evil Eye isn't there, there's a sense that this just isn't "our" tradition. Also, even ignoring the Evil Eye aspect, there's a practical, albeit somewhat dark reason for avoiding a baby shower: If, G-d forbid, something happens and there is no baby, it's easier for the parents if there's not a whole room full of baby stuff waiting at home.
So actually, let's work backwards: The real sticking point for many people is getting baby stuff before there's a baby to use it. So why not throw your friend another kind of party? Avoid the "s" word if it's too culturally-loaded for her and bring together a group of people who care about her family for a celebration. Explicitly forbid guests from bringing baby gifts. Instead, ask them to consider gifts that a pregnant woman would enjoy (think chocolate). Or, avoid gifts altogether and just have a lovely brunch with friends and family before your best friend's life changes forever.
I would be remiss if I didn't share that my husband and I decided to avoid getting any baby stuff until our daughter was here, totally out of superstition. About a month before I was due, we thought maybe we should revise that just so we weren't completely unprepared. While we were mulling that over, our daughter was born four weeks early to the day, and we had, literally, not a single diaper or onesie in the house. Thankfully, my parents and in-laws swooped into town and took care of everything, but now I encourage all expecting parents at least to have the bare minimum. That doesn't mean having a shower or a themed nursery, but it does mean that a modest amount of preparation can be helpful.
If you want to do more reading about this topic or show your friend you're sharing in her interests, send her to Kveller. She may already know it, though, since pregnant women are Internet wizards. You've heard that a pregnant woman's sense of smell is heightened? So is her ability to find pregnancy-related articles online, so don't be surprised if she sees this post before you do.