Where Does Gift-Giving at Christmas Come From?
As we approach the festive season, it’s time to start making those all-important lists of everything that your loved ones will be receiving as a gift this year!
Gift-giving is a huge part of the Christmas period and, for many of us, it can be a source of stress.
It may feel as though our list of people to buy for grows more and more with each passing year, and there’s often a few names on the list that we don’t particularly even know that well – distant relatives, your Secret Santa colleague, etc.
It can all feel like it’s sending in your head in a bit of a spin and might even take away from your enjoyment of the season overall.
However, as we prepare to deck the halls with boughs of holly, it’s important to remember why we give gifts in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at how the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas has evolved over time.
The Tradition of Giving Gifts at Christmas
To explore the origins of the tradition of gift-giving, we should go right back to the origins of Christmas itself. What does the bible say about gift-giving?
What Does The Bible Say About Giving Gifts at Christmas?
Of course, in the Nativity story, baby Jesus is presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh by the three wise men who visit Mary and Joseph in the stables, which is where the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas originated first. However, the bible makes repeated references to generosity and giving throughout.
As WhyChristmas states “Christmas itself is really about a big present that God gave the world about 2000 years ago – Jesus!”
In Corinthians 9, it is written that ‘whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will reap generously’. Put simply, we should give to those we love and show our generosity, and that generosity will be paid to us in return. Of course, we don’t give purely to receive, but mutual exchanging of gifts remains one of the greatest and most popular ways to show you care for someone.
Related: The Christmas Story in the Bible
In today’s society, where we are all busy and have other financial responsibilities, it isn’t possible to bestow gifts on those that we love all the time, but it’s certainly nice to do it at the times when it’s more expected. We give gifts on birthdays, but giving gifts at Christmas is possibly the only time (aside from shared celebrations, such as anniversaries) when the gift-giving is mutual.
As years have gone by, Christmas gifts have come in many shapes and sizes, with gifts given in the Victorian era consisting modestly of sweets, nuts, fruit and trinkets that were hung on Christmas trees. Today, while the sentiment is very much the same, this wouldn’t be considered very much of a gift at all!
Giving gifts at Christmas, while the gifts we give now are quite different from the gold, frankincense and myrrh given to baby Jesus, brings people together just as it always has.
When Did Christmas Become A Gift-Giving Holiday?
It always has been, just as we’ve established by thinking back on the nativity story!
The issue is that, as gifts and gift-giving have evolved over time, there’s been a far more materialistic feel to the tradition. Gifts today aren’t as simple or as readily-appreciated as they used to be – it’s sad, but true.
The tradition has also lost some of its sentiment thanks to the evolution of products over time and the shift in marketing and advertising that we see in the run up to the festive season.
Chances are, if you turn on your television at any time after November 1st, you’ll come across an advert pedalling a product as ‘the perfect gift for Christmas’ – and yet, you might not even know a single person where that statement might be true.
Buying Gifts for Christmas Today
It’s also lost its shine thanks to the fact that it is, these days, so readily expected.
There’s more than likely a few names on your gift-giving list where your sole reason for purchasing a gift for that person is ‘in case they get me one’, and you might not even know them well enough for that gift to be particularly thoughtful or reflect the personality and interests of the person it’s been bought for.
We see gift-giving as something that we have to do because it’s Christmas, and not just as another positive element of the festive period.
As we mentioned, there’s also a whole lot of stress involved these days when looking for people’s ideal Christmas gifts. Gone are the days of giving fruit and nuts – now everybody on your list gets something different, usually sourced from several different stores or websites.
Getting all your Christmas gift shopping done is both time-consuming and expensive, and can place a lot of extra stress on a time that is time-consuming and expensive to prepare for in the first place.
Our Final Thoughts On Why Do We Give Gifts At Christmas?
In a year that’s most definitely been unusual compared to those before it, the majority of us will be thinking of Christmas a little differently this year.
After months of being unable to freely see family and friends, we’ll all be looking forward to making the most of the festive period and the time that we just might get to spend together. As we approach the Christmas season, we could all do with keeping in mind what’s important.
When we give gifts this year, it’s important to try not to let the stress of trying to find the most impressive or most expensive gifts become the central aspect of the season – the central aspect of the season is those we share it with.
Gift-giving is simply a way to show that you care, and, when it comes down to it, it really is the thought that counts!
Related Articles on Christmas Traditions:
- Christmas Was Cancelled! Which Country Banned Christmas in 1644?
- Who Is Kris Kringle? The International Spirit of Christmas
- Why Do We Eat Turkey At Christmas – The Interesting Truth
- What Is A Christingle Service