The arrival of a new baby is all levels of excitement. Prepping for the arrival is important, from baby-proofing the home to stock-piling on the nappies. However, in the midst of the prepping, we can all agree that the gift aspect of a newborn baby is one of the more fun elements!
The tiny clothes and first toys bring back so many nostalgic memories. I love seeing the children playing with the toys in our store in Belgravia – it brings out the playfulness in you that you had perhaps forgotten!
There are so many traditions from around the world that inspire my collections time after time again, especially having grown up in the south of Spain with a big family; these traditions are rich in family values that result in priceless pieces. For example, the first bunny that becomes a treasured toy through childhood, and then the prized possession first in the suitcase when your child is grown and off on an adventure, whether that’s university or travelling the world.
I was intrigued with what other traditions are associated with newborns and the parents across the world…
Is it a boy or a girl?
Having spoken to countless expectant parents over the years, it really is a mixed bag as to whether the parents want to know the sex or not, and there are a number of reasons as to why. In the Dominican Republic, families place a spoon, knife and fork under three different chairs then the mum chooses which to sit on, supposedly unaware of the cutlery. A spoon means girl, knife means boy, and fork is undetermined.
A very popular tradition in The UK is choosing to leave the sex of the baby unknown deliberately.
I had no idea about this until I moved to London. Initially I found this a bit shocking, as preparing everything for the arrival of the baby in Spain is a big family tradition that involves so many grand-aunties and others family members knitting beautiful timeless pieces in the sweetest colours that suit your baby boy or girl. You find out the sex of your baby from the very first scan (they would start even earlier if possible!). You’ll see this mirrored in our adorable bonnets which are hand-knitted in Spain.
Back to the UK, I began to understand the reasoning behind the mystery – it makes much a big surprise! The 9 months work as anticipation and builds excitement making the last - and potentially more difficult - stages of the pregnancy much easier on both parties.
The negative side can be organising everything in short notice for when the bundle of joy comes – although gender neutral products are in abundance! Just a classic bodysuit for a newborn is a tradition shared the world over.
Knitting isn’t the only craft you can partake in. Another beautiful skill passed down from my family was handsmocking – an intricate form of embroidery. I love the traditional styles of children clothing, and the blend between beautiful Spanish clothing and classic British styles. Handsmocking is one of the Spanish-British crossovers.
More About Handsmocking
Although reports aren’t 100% conclusive, handsmocking very likely originated from England in the Middle Ages. It was a style originally worn by labourers and has since become a dying art. Before elastic, it offered stretch in garments, so it was popular in cuffs, bodices, and necklines – that’s why you see a lot of our handsmocked products with designs around the chest for rapidly growing children.
The process works by gathering fabric so it can stretch, but you can also include beautiful intricate designs such as this SS19 bodysuit:
Handsmocking works so well season after season with Pepa & Co. because we use fine light-weight materials such as 100% cottons and silks. You’ll see a lot of handsmocking in the celebration collection – it offers that special touch. Whilst machinery can be used for handsmocking, I love hand-smocking techniques and continue to use them to this day.
Not very crafty? Not only are there plenty of websites specialising in unique handmade gifts, but the thought always counts. Being a nanny, I found out how valuable alone parent time can be – how about designing a small voucher for some free babysitting sessions?
Choosing The Right Name
In China, this has special significance. The Chinese believe that choosing the name will determine the life the baby will have, and this is reflected in the gifts the new parents are offered. Along with the last name to continue the family line, Chinese babies are given another special character for their own generation in the family, but there are other factors to consider.
The number of strokes in a name bears some importance and parents may like to choose a character associated with a prosperous individual they know and admire. Of course, red is the lucky colour in China, so these gifts will always be well-received. In fact, this is also a lucky colour in Brazil, as well as keeping evil spirits at bay.
Due to the interest in the name, you would think that preparing garments and items pre-birth would be high on the agenda. The complete opposite. Celebrating or even discussing the child prior to birth is considered to be very bad luck. To make up for this, Chinese babies are celebrated on the first day they’re born, three days old, one month old, one hundred days old and their first birthday – allowing plenty of time to give name-related gifts to the new parents!
The Gifting of Eggs
Yes, you heard correctly. We’re talking about eggs. When researching China culture, and the significance of red, it is also popular to offer a red egg to the newborn to symbolise new life, whilst the round shape represents a harmonious and happy baby.
I also came across this food in Turkey tradition whilst falling deeper into the Google search rabbit hole. After 20 days of relaxation for the new mother has passed, she can then receive visitors who gift a handkerchief filled with sweets and egg to symbolise good-nature and health respectively.
Why Is Silver A Popular Gift?
A small bracelet or ring are popular gifts for newborns in the Western World, and something often handed to the new parents by a close relative. I was interested in particular by the use of silver, which I found out symbolises health and good fortune. This is popular in Britain and I’ve been intrigued as to why!
This article from The Royal Mint speaks of the silver coin tradition which goes back centuries. One link is the three wise men inspiring individuals to give precious metals to newborns as luck and prosperity. The silver sixpence was introduced by King Edward VI and this became a symbol of good fortune. Many parents aim to start the baby’s savings account and this gesture can also be linked to this.
Over time, the form might have changed but the giving of silver has not! In Tudor times, it was popular to gift silver spoons (another sign of good luck and wellbeing), and during Queen Victoria’s reign, it was silver trinkets. Recent years has seen a silver rattle rising in popularity.
It’s said that silver has a number of health benefits too. Silver is a antimicrobial agent that can help prevent and fight infections and flu bugs – ideal for newborns. It also helps with heat regulation and circulation, heals wounds quicker, improves skin conditions, works as an anti-inflammatory, and can help to treat allergies.
Baby Albums & Memory Cases
There are so many firsts, and this is a tradition shared across the world – I don’t know one family that haven’t kept their memories in a special place. Baby albums are a popular format and can include the baby’s first haircut, their first day at school, even first tooth! We launched The Gift House earlier this year and our memory albums and memory cases are available in pink and navy… oh and in grey for the memory case too! They can be inscribed with a special embossed label.
We also recently launched the Ultimate Baby Gift Sets in multiple colours. We have knitted versions and soft pima cotton versions, this includes classic items such as their first blanket, two bodysuits, first bunny, adorable knitted bonnet, and specialised newborn knitted set. You can add your own personalised message for that extra special touch. These sets are from 1 month up to 9 months.
Our current window display:
Offering Wooden Gifts
A traditional wicker basket will be a delight for any new parents. Also called a Moses basket, this allows the parents complete peace of mind when the baby is co-sleeping. Sleeping is so important for every member of the new family and a traditional wicker basket is not only gorgeous to look at, but often takes up less room in the parent’s bedroom. This can also make the transition from basket to crib slightly easier for the little one.
A wooden rocking horse has a certain sentimental feel. Of course wood is associated with life, nature and the outdoors – it’s something wise and represents the circle of life. Such a beautiful contrast with a delicate newborn baby.
Don’t Forget The Card!
Adding a personal touch is so important. We love a handmade card. Even if you’re not the next Piccasso, it’s always the thought that counts. If you have children yourself, how about getting them involved! Arrange a craft morning with your own children to create wonderful handmade stationary and cards for the new parents. Another option is choosing more personalised stores. Try shopping local to support local artists and businesses.
Let’s Be Practical
Breast pump, an endless supply of food, and rockers to keep the baby calm are must-haves for any new parents. When in doubt, a room of nappies will be extremely appreciated! Whilst this doesn’t necessarily have the “wow factor” teaming the essential such as a sweet toy decoration for the nursery will be so valuable.
Searching for the perfect newborn gift is a daunting but completely adorable process. I hope we’ve taken an aspect of that worry and turned it into complete joy. The only thing we have left to say is….CONGRATULATIONS!
If you need any additional help, we’re on hand. You can visit our flagship store in the beautiful Belgravia, London UK. We’re on Elizabeth Street. Or contact us through phone (020 8016 7401) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).