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It’s the Thought That Counts

History of gift giving

These are common sights during the holidays – people scurrying off for last-minute gift shopping, long queue at the gift-wrapping section, and finally, colourful gifts beneath the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Then before you know it, it’s the day after Christmas, the gifts have been exchanged, and discarded wraps and ribbons litter your living room. You heave a sigh and think how all this happened? How, indeed?

Psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the receiver, who gets the biggest psychological gains from a gift. Sadly, these days, most of us get caught up in the commercialism of gift giving, that we fail to appreciate and comprehend its real essence.

An ancient tradition

In ancient times, gifts were exchanged as a means of bartering, others as symbols of friendships from other clans or dignitaries, some as a way of inheritance from generation to generation.

In most regions, it was customary to exchange gifts at new years. Egyptians exchanged flasks, Persians exchanged eggs to symbolize fertility, Romans exchanged gifts in honor of the god Janus. Texts confirming this date back to as far as the 6th Century BCE (Greek poet Aeschylus wrote about giving presents to children on their birthdays).*

The winter solstice, or the mark of the beginning of winter, has also been traditionally celebrated in many different cultures and religious traditions. The Romans exchanged gifts on New Year’s Day in celebration of the winter solstice. The gifts usually depended on the receiver. Some of these gifts included coins to represent prosperity, pastries to represent happiness, and lamps to provide light on one’s journey through life.

From the three wise men

Christmas, however, is primarily a Christian tradition. Gifts are believed to be symbolic of the presents the three wise men brought to the baby Jesus during His birth. The Bible tells us that the Magi, also known as the three Wise Men or Kings from the East, were the first to visit and pay their respects to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. They brought treasures and gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to honor the newborn King.

As Christianity spread throughout the world, other countries and societies developed their own Christmas gift-giving traditions. In some countries, for instance, it was believed that the Child Jesus brought presents on Christmas Eve. In Holland, it was St. Nicolas who brought presents on the eve of his feast. But in the 19th century, these two traditions became known all over the world as the tradition of “Santa Claus”.

Legend has it that Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra (now known as Demre or Kale in modern-day Turkey) he is said to have been a wealthy, generous man with a giving heart, specially to children and those in need.**

And over time, Santa Claus and Christmas gifts become synonymous for many. So this holiday season, as you fuss over what to give your loved ones for Christmas, remember that it’s not the brand or the logo that matter. It’s the thought that counts.


** Source:

By Maripet L. Poso
Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 9 2011. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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