Could you imagine how boring celebrating Christmas would be in todays world without the tradition of giving and receiving gifts. But, has the thought ever crossed your mind, “Where on earth did giving gifts at Christmas come from?” Some believe in many ways, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is a very ancient tradition. While some would contest, giving gifts at Christmas is a relatively new idea.
It is taught in the Christian religion, that practice of giving gifts at Christmas can be traced back to the gifts of gold, jewels and fine cloth that were given to the baby Jesus Christ by the Three Wise Men. These magi were kings from the East, known as the wisest of men. Traveled far from home over great distance following a single star in the sky, to find baby Christ and to bring him gifts. The visit of the Magi to the Christ child was originally celebrated on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th. Over the course of time, the tradition of giving gifts came to be more known as Christmas tradition more than one associated with Epiphany. Many are unaware that the actual time between Christmas to Epiphany in the Christian Church calendar, December 25th through January 6th is what is recognized as the “twelve days of Christmas” from the classic Christmas carol song.
For much of it's history, the ancient Church did not “celebrate” Christmas as much as it “observed” Christmas as more of a holy day. The act of celebrating as we know it today can be better associated with more of the modern era then not. The tradition of giving gifts to friends and family at Christmas became more popular towards the end of the middle ages and beginning with the modern era. Numerous countries and peoples of different cultures began to make gift-giving a regular part of the then known holy day (or more currently known as “holiday”) over a course of many years. When the Americas were settled by the Europeans, giving gifts at Christmas was practiced by many of the settlers. For instance the early Dutch settlers to America introduced St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus, to America. While the early French and English settlers, in contrast, were more likely to give gifts at New Year’s or at Epiphany.
The common tradition that developed in which gifts are exchanged on Christmas gained the most steam in the nineteenth century. With the works of such influences as of O. Henry, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Nast. The idea of gift giving took on new dimensions and ultimately helped to shape our concepts of Santa Claus and other aspects of the holiday as we know it today.
In this day and age, we chose to give gifts at Christmas for our own many reasons. For some, it is the classic way to celebrate the Christian holiday. For others, it is a special time to gather with family and friends and let them know that you care by giving gifts. Over the years the act of giving gifts at Christmas can become almost tedious, and feel more like a chore; keep it in mind that when this happens, take time to step aside for a few moments and consider what exactly giving gifts at Christmas means to you.