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Where Did The Idea Of Gifts Under The Tree Come From

Jun 24, 2008
Stop for a second and think about Christmas. What is the first thing that comes to mind?

Maybe you thought of Santa, maybe you thought of turkey, or maybe you even thought of a Christmas tree. However, chances are, most of you thought of gifts. In fact, can you imagine Christmas without them?

Gifts are very much a part of Christmas these days. Just turn the television on during the Christmas season and count how many commercials in an hour mention gifts for Christmas. Chances are its pretty high. Gifts have become such a part of Christmas, that it is the biggest shopping period of the entire year. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, retailers immediately get out of the red and into the black as consumers spend upwards of $20 billion in one day on presents for Christmas.

So where did this concept of giving out gifts on Christmas come from?

Well, the tradition of gift giving goes back to the Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Kalends, when high-ranking men in the Roman Empire would bring gifts for the Emperor, who was worshiped as a god. As well, lowly families would exchange gifts at this time, usually simple things like twigs of a sacred grove for good luck.

Slowly, those gifts expanded to include food, jewelry, candles and statues of gods, making it a lucrative time for traders.

When the Christian church began to gain power, following the fall of the Roman Empire, they frowned upon the old Pagan practice of gift giving. However it was too popular to be ignored. By the Middle Ages, gift giving was acceptable across Europe.

During that time, on the day of the feast of St. Nicholas, a man known for giving gifts to the poor and the basis of our current legend of Santa Claus, parents would leave gifts for their children. Does that sound familiar?

The concept of a consumer Christmas may seem modern, but in fact it dates back to the turn of the 19th century. During that time, the first gift giving advertisements appeared, around 1804. By 1820, more and more ads were appearing in newspapers throughout North America and Europe and the concept of gift giving as we know it was born.

Fast forward to the first decade of the 21st century and you have the biggest holiday of the year centered around gift giving. All of this came from a small Roman holiday that started the gift giving tradition nearly two thousand years ago.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for flowers and gifts. When shopping for flowers and gifts, we recommend you shop only at the best online stores that specialize in Flowers for Christmas, and Affordable Christmas Jewelry.
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