With gift buying at an all time high across the world this week, at Sparkle Daily we thought there was no time like the present (pun intended) to take a look at the history of this custom and how it’s exercised across the globe.
Christmas’s gift-giving tradition has its roots in the Three Kings’ offerings to the infant Jesus, namely gifts of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh. Because the magi traveled to Bethlehem to present Christ gifts, some Eastern Orthodox Churches and European countries still celebrate the traditional date of the Magi’s arrival on January 6 – otherwise known as Three Kings’ Day – with a similar Christmas-like gift exchange.
While the link between the magi and gift-giving is clear, interestingly December gift-giving hasn’t solely been a contemporary Christian activity. Romans too traded gifts during Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn held on December 17 of the Julian calendar, while 13th century French nuns distributed presents to the poor on St. Nicholas’ Eve celebrated on December 5th.
However, the habit of exchanging elaborate gifts only truly began in the 1800s. While the Christian roots of gift-giving was ostensibly meant to remind people of the Three Kings’, commercialization of the holiday changed Christmas into the secularized holiday it is today. Stores as early as 1820 began placing Christmas-themed ads in publications. By 1867, the tradition of gift buying and giving had become so popular that the Macy’s department store in New York City remained open until midnight on Christmas Eve so that last-minute shoppers could make their purchases.
While gift-giving between loved ones has become commonplace over the festive season, evident by the annual “Christmas rush”, the holiday has a long history of iconic gift givers. While most will know the white-bearded St. Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus or Father Christmas, in Germany children believe that it is the Christkind that brings their gifts, in Spain the original Wise Men and in Italy an old lady called Befana.
Geographically unique traditions aren’t only found in festive season gift givers, but also in the location of the actual gifts! Throughout Europe presents are commonly left in shoes or boots put out by the children. In the UK, USA and Italy, children’s presents can be found left in stockings hung by a fireplace. For the rest of the family, presents are simply left under the Christmas tree in most countries.
Presents are opened on different days over the world as well. On St. Nicholas’ Eve, on December 5th, children in Holland of ten receive their presents. On St. Nicholas’ Day, on December 6th, children in Belgium, Czech Republic and Germany, and a few other European countries, open their gifts.
Children in the UK and USA traditionally open their presents on Christmas Day, on December 25th, while the latest presents are opened on January 6th, for the Epiphany – mainly celebrated in Catholic countries like Spain and Mexico.
Whatever tradition you follow, Jewlr has a host of Christmas gift ideas for you to choose from. With many of our popular items still available for guaranteed Christmas delivery on the 24th, you should start personalizing and purchasing straight away! Shop all guaranteed gifts for Christmas right here at Jewlr.com/christmas-collection.
What Christmas traditions do you follow? Tell us below!