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The Origin of Gift Giving

We all give gifts all the time. Whether we realize it or not, however haven't you ever stopped to think about the origin of this gift giving ritual? While you may think that gift giving isn't really that big of a deal, there is a great deal of history behind this that most people don't even really think about. What is a gift? The term “gift” refers to an object given from one person to another person, with the aim of either increasing the amount of happiness in their life, or just decreasing the amount of sadness. This includes special days, special occasions, and just times when a person might need a boost or something to make them feel good.

Since the dawn of time people have been giving presents to one another. People in early civilizations gave to their tribal leader’s gifts to show their loyalty and love. They used bark and wood from the trees, and reeds to make unique and unusual objects. The Roman practice of presenting the Emperor with good luck tokens was another form of gift giving…Subjects gave presents in order to procure favor and to demonstrate allegiance, a practice still in place today. In Egypt, idols and pyramids were built to honor the pharaohs and great tombs were created to help the king in the afterlife. In the medieval age, gifts were given to kings to gain personal favor or allegiance in a war. Most were silver and gold and jewels: chalices, medallions, statues, and other articles. They were also given to a beloved one or used as dowries for betrothals, which could include a herd of animals, or precious metals and jewelry. Kings would also give gifts of land and patronage to his subjects for their loyalty.

Today we give gifts for countless of reasons. Presents are given at cultural religious occasions such as Christmas and Easter or for birthdays, holidays, farewells, good luck, to show love, to say thank you, to welcome, and "just because". Commercial holidays such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day are also times when gift giving is very important. We give presents to everyone; family members, friends, co-workers, and teachers and the selection may include jewellery, baskets, toys, clothes, gift vouchers, flowers and plants. Sometimes they are priceless gifts with only sentimental value; children give their parents coupons for yard cleanup, dish washing, cleaning the house and other chores they might not ordinarily perform. Time is given to our family, friends, and neighbors when they need help. We volunteer our time to various charitable organisations and every so often, we give only because it is time to give a present to someone.

Receiving is part of this process and giving makes the giver feel good. Making someone else's life richer rewards the giver with a feeling of achievement and caring especially if the recipient shows gratitude and appreciation. Receiving is as important in this reciprocal practice as giving. This became big business in the United States along with the general trend toward a consumer economy. Some people wonder whether the emphasis on buying, shopping and getting brings more happiness or disappointment, especially to those who can afford very little.

It has symbolic meaning in nearly every culture from all corners of the globe for as long as mankind has existed. From the first time a father gave his child a carved doll to the gold ring given to a bride, gift giving symbolizes many things: love, respect, sympathy, flattery and appreciation. This has become a time-honored tradition that seems to become more deeply rooted with time. Over time, this wonderful tradition has grown more complicated and more stressful. Sometimes, the original purpose behind the tradition gets clouded, and it takes on a life of its own. Gift giving will always touch our hearts in a very special way. It doesn’t matter what type of gift you give, it is the thought that counts.

Date posted: 21/01/2010

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