The History of Gift Giving

Exchanging presents or gift giving has been a practice that goes back thousands of years. It may even be one of the oldest traditions going back to the beginning of the human species. In primitive caveman societies, the act was common. This is because humans are social animals and, as such, generally enjoy being with others and communicating. Offerings could be something as simple as a rock in an unusual form, an animal tooth, or some other natural element. As mankind developed new tools, these traditions evolved and became more complex, being representative of the advancement of society.

Humans as Social Animals

Part of sharing feelings is using gifts to represent sentiments. Whether it be an expression of love, a display of gratitude for a job well done, or simply a heartfelt thank you, offering an object that represents the thought is genuinely human. To understand why we become animated when giving or receiving gifts, it is important to go back in time and understand how this form of expression began. The reason is that different cultures have differing views on how to give a gift and even the appropriateness of certain items. However, people of all cultures, religions, and places celebrate special occasions and do so through the process of gifting. The actions consolidate cultural and social bonds between family and friends and are universal across the world.

Gift Giving During Christmas

An example of a cultural tradition of gift giving was with the Druids who honored their sacred plant, the Mistletoe, at the beginning of every year. Another example of a cultural and religious occasion where the exchange of presents is a core part of the tradition is Christmas. The concept originates with the Three Wise Men and their offering with the birth of Christ. The New Testament describes the gifts offered to baby Jesus as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. However, this tradition is predated by the Pagans in the Middle Ages where gifts were given during the winter festivals including the Roman festival honoring Saturn, which was considered the god of agriculture. This festival, known as Saturnalia, began on the 17th of December during winter.

Saturnalia was phased out by Christians that wanted to end the traditions. Instead of risking a backlash from canceling the customs, they created a similar festival honoring Jesus that rivaled the Pagan holiday. Not all were quick to adopt the new rituals and, as European settlers came to America, the festivals were banned as many still considered them to be of Pagan origins. However, in the 1680s, people began to adopt the celebrations around the birth of Christ, including the use of the Christmas Tree as the main symbol and the idea of exchanging presents among family and loved ones.

The Basis of the Gift

Today, humans continue many traditions and give gifts for holidays, weddings, engagements, graduations, baby showers, and anniversaries, among many others. Industries exist around the concept of presenting offerings to mark special occasions or relationships. Nevertheless, the idea of the present centers around the sentiment behind the article being given and the thought that went into selecting the item. This detail is important and does not require a high investment. Sure, there will be parents that will drive to a car dealership and gift a car for their son or daughter’s graduation. However, the fundamental aspect of giving is not the price of the item.

Instead, taking the time to think about what the person on the receiving end would love or need is far more important that the cost of the item. For example, those that are coffee lovers would love and enjoy tailored coffee gifts. Thinking, purchasing, and giving the gift of java says a lot about the relationship and your level of detail, since you are aware of the enjoyment. This is because you remembered an important detail about the person, such as a passion or need, and placed enough care to consider such details when looking for the present. Ultimately, the perfect present will be a combination of thought and insight.

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