The tradition of giving presents at Christmas has roots that go back as far as the Nativity story, whereupon the Three Wise Men gave gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.
Let’s see some interesting facts about them!
1. One of the main reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
2. Frankincense was a perfume used in Jewish worship and, as a gift, it showed that people would worship Jesus.
3. Gold was associated with Kings and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings.
4. Myrrh was a perfume that was put on dead bodies to make them smell nice and, as a gift, it showed that Jesus would suffer and die.
5. All over the world, families and friends give presents to each other.
6. Most children around the world believe in a Christmas gift bringer.
7. A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus (derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas), Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann, Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas, the Christkind, Kris Kringle, Joulupukki, tomte, Babbo Natale, Saint Basil, and Ded Moroz.
8. The Scandinavian tomte is sometimes depicted as a gnome instead of Santa Claus.
9. The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins.
10. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Myra, a city in the Roman province of Lycia, whose ruins are 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from modern Demre in southwest Turkey.
11. In the 13th Century, many French Nun’s made and gave gifts to the needy on the eve of St. Nicholas.
12. During the 18th Century, that gift giving became a central tradition of the Christmas festivities.
13. The gifts that were given were to remind those of the King’s journey, and of God’s selfless gift to humanity, and to help those who were unfortunate.
14. The Victorians brought warmth and spirit to Christmas, making the celebration more about the family.
15. The strictest of parents would enjoy games with their young children, hearts filled with charity and friendliness. To the Victorians, to give a gift was as an expression of kindness, ingenuity and merriment.
16. One such tradition would be a cobweb party. Each family member was assigned a colour, then shown to a room which was criss-crossed with yarn of varying colours. The job was to find your colour, such as green, and follow it, to find where a small gift would be.
17. Among other saintly attributes, St. Nicolas was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast day, December 6, came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts.
18. In most of Europe, the presents are left in shoes or boots put out by the children.
19. In Italy, the UK and the USA presents are left in stockings, often left hanging by a fire place.
20. In many countries, presents for friends and family may be left under the Christmas Tree.
21. In the UK, they are often opened on Christmas day morning with all the family together.
22. The custom of hanging stockings comes from the story of St. Nicholas.
23. Presents are opened on different days over the world.
24. The earliest presents are opened is on St. Nicholas’ Eve on December 5th when children in Holland of ten receive their presents. On St. Nicholas’ Day (6th December) children in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and some other European countries open some of their presents.
25. Children in the UK, USA and many other countries, such as Japan, open their presents on Christmas Day, December 25th.
26. The latest presents are opened on January 6th (a month after the earliest). This is known as Epiphany and is mainly celebrated in Catholic countries such Spain and Mexico.
27. One popular way of giving presents in groups such as clubs, school classes and workplaces is to have a ‘Secret Santa’. This is where you pull the name of someone else in the group out of a hat. You then buy a present for that person. When the presents are given out (often at a Christmas party) each person is given their present but they have no idea which person in the group bought it for them.
28. Although today’s commercialized Christmas is considered distinctly American, the festival was banned in the nation’s earliest days. New England’s Puritan leaders considered it a pagan or papist abomination, and any citizen found celebrating around Dec. 25 would be sternly reprimanded. But when Christmas celebrations became legal in the 1680s, gift giving boomed.
29. Rural Americans carved wooden toys and made pieces of needlework in the agricultural offseason to give to family members and neighbors.
30. The Industrial Revolution saw those handmade items replaced with mass-manufactured trinkets and toys.
31. By 1867, the holiday present industry was healthy enough for Macy’s in New York City to keep its doors open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time.
32. By 1904, one writer in Harper’s Bazaar was already lamenting the rampant commercialism of the day.
33. Such complaints prompted the creation of organizations like SPUG, the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, whose members included Anne Morgan, the daughter of banker J.P. Morgan, and former President Theodore Roosevelt.
34. But retailers were unabashed. The ultimate gift giver, Santa, started appearing in advertisements, and the dreaded “Christmas creep” began, with stores advertising their Christmas wares earlier each year.
35. For toy makers and sellers, the holiday season now begins in February.