The History of Gift Giving

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Have you ever thought about the history of gift giving? Why do we give presents, and what is the origin of gifting? Let’s take a closer look at one of the earliest traditions that are widely practiced in every corner of the world.

Primitive Caveman Culture

If we could travel back in time, one of the things we would have noticed is that gifting was a part of the primitive culture as well. We can see it in the animal kingdom and in the earliest traces of humankind.

It is interesting how important gifts are. For example, chimpanzees are known to exchange gifts as a sign of appreciation. Male chimps give food as a sign of attraction, and they use it as a way to impress a female. In return, they’d get a chance to mate or receive other favors.

A similar thing applies to our ancestors as well. Gifts were a sign that someone was able to provide for a family, and things haven’t changed a lot in the past thousands of years. It turns out the more generous the gift was, the easier a man would attract a woman. The tradition of gift giving became rather important in all civilizations, and we all know how relevant it is in the modern day.

However, gifting isn’t related to mating only. Many tribes used gifts as a sign of a great accomplishment. The earliest gifts (aside from food) were stones, teeth, and other decorative trophies.

During the Egyptian Era

If we take a look at ancient Egypt, we can notice a similar behavior. In fact, ancient Egyptians are the ones we need to thank for the birthday present tradition. They believed that a pharaoh transforms into a God when he becomes a ruler, which is why they celebrated it as a birthday.

During this time, he would receive plenty of gifts, such as crops or jewelry. They also had a tradition of being buried with their material wealth since they believed pharaohs could carry them in the afterlife.

As for the ordinary people, they received more useful gifts, like food.

In Roman Times

A similar thing applies to the Roman emperors. They received numerous gifts during the festival in honor of Saturn, also known as Saturnalia. The festival took place on December 17 and continued until December 23.

The gift giving tradition was rather important, and people often received tokens for good luck, dates, food, and many other things. Naturally, Saturnalia wasn’t the only cause for celebration, and there were many other occasions for gift giving.

Interestingly, when Christianity appeared in ancient Rome, it slowly replaced Saturnalia with Christmas. This is just one of the examples of how ancient civilizations affected the world we live in today. By the way, did you know that blowing out candles for birthdays came from ancient Greece? It was a way of preventing evil spirits and bringing good wishes.

By Medieval Times

Even though times changed, some things remained the same. Gifts remained an important tradition and persevered throughout the history of humankind. Since the Middle Ages weren’t the happiest period of human history, they often considered food synonymous with power.

So gifts were commonly food-based. It was a way to show appreciation, loyalty, and to get religious or political favors. During this time, books were quite rare and expensive, which means you could also encounter books as gifts. Needless to say, not many people were literate, so it would also show class aside from being an expensive gift.

It wasn’t rare to use gifts as a sign of goodwill, and they were an important part of diplomacy. Naturally, gifts continued to be an excellent way to impress a potential partner. One of the interesting examples is the gift of dowry.

In This Day and Age

As we all know, presents are quite important today. There are numerous reasons to give someone something nice. We all know about the Christmas tradition and that it is common to leave presents under the Christmas tree. Furthermore, birthday gifts are also a tradition that has survived since ancient Egypt.

Other special occasions include Valentine’s Day, weddings, important life events, like anniversaries, graduation, new job, or anything else. Of course, caring about someone is always a great reason to give them something nice.

The gift itself doesn’t have to be anything expensive. It is the thought that counts, and just the idea that you’ve been thinking about someone is an excellent gift. See the history of Christmas tree.

Why Is It Important to Give Gifts?

Giving something to family and friends will make them feel loved, and that’s the most important thing about gifts. Gift giving shows that you care about someone, and as a result, it will make you feel good as well.

The occasion is less important of course. It doesn’t matter if it is Christmas Day, birthday, or just a random occasion you decided to do something nice on. 

Giving someone a present is a way of showing gratitude and feelings you have toward them. It can also help strengthen the relationship between two people, regardless of its nature.

All things considered, gift giving is an important tradition that makes everyone feel a lot better. It is also an incredible way to show someone you care about them.

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