Giving gifts is nothing new. People have been doing it for hundreds of centuries. From sacrificing animals to ask favor of a deity to the traditional exchange of Christmas presents, gift-giving is an ingrained part of many cultures and is most definitely here to stay.
The Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest used to celebrate special occasions within their tribe with a potlatch, which was an elaborate festival for giving gifts and redistributing wealth. To host a potlatch improved one’s reputation and strengthened social rank within the tribe.
As with most customs, the Romans had a part to play in establishing gift-giving as an important part of society’s functioning. They would give good luck tokens to one another and to the Emperor to insure prosperity in the upcoming year. This would happen around the time of Saturnalia (in late December) which was eventually converted into the holiday we now know as Christmas. You can thank the Christian Emperor Constantine and his need to satisfy the masses for that one.
The giving of gifts has made for an interesting topic of study for social scientists. Many scholars agree that the mutual act of giving gifts is actually a form of social cohesion. According to this article in the New York Times,
“giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends.”
The article also goes on to state that greatest benefit of giving presents may be to ourselves. We feel better when we’ve taken the time to buy a gift for someone else because it shows that we care about them. The best thing you can do for yourself is to remember the special occasions and take the time to celebrate those people that mean the most to you.
[photo credit: MyEyeSees ]
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