The University of Ravelry

14 October 2010

I learn a lot from Ravelry.

It’s a world-wide knitting community of almost a million people so you can expect that you may learn a bit about knitting.  But it’s interesting (and incredibly frustrating sometimes) to read the general chat forums which can throw a little light on other country’s cultures, particularly the USA as the largest national group on Rav is American.

I read a fascinating discussion once about baby showers.  They’re not really part of British culture and I’d never been to one before I came to live in Australia – I don’t think they’re really part of Australian culture either but the practice has been “borrowed” from America.  A woman on Ravelry was holding one for her niece who was pregnant with her third child and alone, after her husband had either died or left (didn’t discover which).  A number of Americans wrote that you must NEVER hold a baby shower for any second or subsequent babies, which I hadn’t known.  One woman wrote that she was “appalled and disgusted” that anyone would think such a party was appropriate.  Apparently there are quite strong etiquette rules for the holding of baby showers.  And I’d just thought they were casual parties of women gathering together to bring small gifts to their pregnant friend and have a fun afternoon. 

Then I learn about Australian culture on Rav too .  There’s a discussion going on at the moment about appropriate Christmas gifts for your child’s teacher.  I don’t know whether this is something that now happens in Britain but I’m quite sure it wasn’t when I was at school.  I don’t remember my mother ever giving a gift to one of our teachers and if it had been the “correct” thing to do, I think my mother would have done it.  I certainly don’t remember seeing teachers receiving gifts from mothers.  (Is my memory correct, Judith?) But the people involved in this topic on Rav don’t appear to think it out of the ordinary so I can only assume that it’s the norm here. 

You live and learn!




  1. I’m in my 60s and can easily remember presents for teachers in both infants and primary schools. the practice faded in High school.

    I lived in what was then an outer suburb of Sydney, now well and truly suburban. Mum and Dad always gave the garbage men several packets of cigarettes to share, the dunny carter was also given a present, usually cigarettes again and the same for the postman. Mail was delivered twice on weekdays and one delivery on saturday.

    In return from the garbos and the dunny man, there was usually left a bit of doggerel on some cardboard, often two three verses long about the occupation.

  2. I remember giving my 5th class teacher a present (strangely none of my other teachers, although I’m sure I must have). Mainly I remember because I gave her a tissue box cover in the shape of a dog (it was cute – to an 11 yo!!) and I wasn’t the only one who’d chosen that present. Poor Mrs Thomas, I don’t know what she did with her multiple doggy tissue box covers…

  3. The baby showers I have been to in Australia have all been for the woman’s first child but I think it’s mostly because there’s more excitement about the first one and they don’t have any many things for the baby yet. But I don’t think there would be anything wrong with having a baby shower for subsequent children.

    We used to give presents to our teachers in primary school. We made white christmas with Mum and wrapped it up in cellophane. πŸ™‚

    I love Ravelry too, but I don’t have the time to get into the conversations on the discussion boards!!

  4. Mum used to always give the nuns a bar of soap or a facecloth or something small like that. (I think it was the only kind of personal thing they sere allwioed to have – if you’d given them snything more they’d have had to ‘hand it in’ because of their vow of poverty. Teachers do get paid for their work, and a small personal gift may be appropriate but I personally don’t think a ‘proper present’ would be the go. But like you, I wasn’t brought up here.

  5. I live in the US and my daughter is expecting her second child. A clerk at a baby furniture store told us that the new trend is to have smaller, less elaborate showers for the second baby. Instead of showers, they’re called “sprinkles”.

  6. Huh. Well, I’m American and I didn’t know about those shower rules! This is my favorite bit of arcane American etiquette: You must never wear white shoes after Labor Day. Ever hear that one? I guess it doesn’t make much sense in countries without the same Labor Day. πŸ™‚

  7. Don’t think we gave presents to teachers, unless something particularly out of the rodinary happend (one year my parents were class reps,a nd I got on v well with teacher after a year of difficulty with another – suspect there might have been something that year).

    Similarly I’m always amazed when people give their docs presents (as a GP) unless there’s been something v particular happen. Weird (kind, of course…).

    Baby showers – I’ve never been to one; didn’t know the only 1st baby thing! (But Kris – I did know the white shoes and labor day thing – don’t know why – and when is labor day in US? presumably NOT 1st May!)

  8. This is something very new in the UK. I read an article last Christmas about the exorbitant gifts given to teachers in private schools – holidays, hampers from Harrods, etc.

    But there are also cards for teachers now – “Ti the Best Teacher in the World” sort of thing. I would have DIED before I did anything like that!

  9. Yes, I remember presents for the teacher in the 50s and 60s – a ten bob note in a card for the nuns. My brother, a primary school teachers, got more hankies than you could poke a stick at. I got cards, as a high school teacher, but I cannot recall presents. I think a class chipped in for a baby present once.

    I remember the labor day thing from when I was living in the states. I don’t think I have had white shoes since I was married … 36 years ago!

    Never was a fashion plate anyway.

    I worry a bit about the creeping americanisation of our culture eg Halloween, a little bit of paganism that died out in the UK and resurrected in the US and now here. Not sure about kids knocking on stranger’s doors…. I guess that when Australians ditch their inherited spirituality there’s a vacuum that sucks another custom into the void. And the US media is a powerful and pervasive force.

  10. So when is US Labor Day? Is that the beginning of winter. I ask because my grandmother said white shoes were never to be worn with winter clothes. Presumably a clash of connotations of summer and winter. Don’t know when I had white shoes last. Certainly a very long time ago.

  11. I have heard that you can only have one baby shower – ever. So once you have had one for your first child, you should not have another for subsequent children lest it should been seen as being present-grabbing. Never did have a baby shower for Alex. Even if I have subsequent children, I won’t be having a baby shower.

    Growing up, we have always given presents to teachers. When I was in school, we did nto celebrate Christmas, but instead we had Teacher’s Day. It was commonplace to give presents to teachers on that day. Every year we contribute towards a joint present for Alex’s teachers and carers at daycare/pre-school.

  12. I love going to baby showers for second or third or fourth babies! Why do the first babies get all the fuss? I am not the first-born child so I like to think I am doing my part in making us third-born children feel a bit special too! As for presents, well, I love giving presents too, especially for lovely new babies although I like to spoil the mums too. In my circle of friends we are more likely to throw a ‘blessingway’ which is more about the woman about to give birth than the actual baby anyway. You can have as many blessingways as you have babies. Nothing too elaborate, just a bunch of friends and some yummy food. Hardly a big enough deal to be grinchy about, surely!

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