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A Brief History of Christmas Presents

Christmas presents

Many people see gift giving as one of the most fun and exciting traditions of Christmas, it's an opportunity to show our loved ones how much we think of them, how well we know them and to give them a token of our esteem. If you are looking for some great Christmas gifts for this 2013 season then check out Paramount Zone.

Some of the first traditions of celebrations during mid-winter that are known to have included gift giving ceremonies include activities during the Roman festival of the Kalends, which occurred on the first day of January. These special gifts were known as strenae and were offered to the Roman Emperor by high ranking officials. A famous story attached to this tradition relates to the Roman Emperor Caligula, who declared an edict which obliged all officials above a certain rank to present him with gifts, and then waited with child-like anticipation at the door of his palace for them to arrive.

These early Roman Christmas gift ideas were traditionally presented in the form of branches of evergreen picked from the grove of the goddess Strenia. Caligula did not find olive branches exciting enough for his tastes, so to please him the Roman officials brought gifts of honey and cakes as symbols of their intention that the New Year should be full of sweetness, and gold to suggest coming riches. Caligula was pleased by this and the tradition of buying ever more expensive and elaborate gifts had begun!

The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by the three kings or wise men when they came to visit Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem are symbols of early Christian gift-giving traditions. The words 'Kriss Kringle' mean "Christ-child" and are part of a medieval legend that the Christ-child himself gave gifts to others. These events form part of the creation of the gift giving tradition within Christian societies.

Traditional gifts have included items such as oranges and sweet fruits, sweets, nuts and other humble offerings. A world away from the shiny, expensive plastic items of today!

In the UK, children leave stockings on their beds or hang them on the fireplace as they go to bed on Christmas Eve, hoping that they will wake in the morning to find them full of chocolate, toys and other stocking fillers and surprises. In Scandinavian countries, children with the same intention leave their shoes or boots on the hearth. This tradition stems from the legend of Saint Nicholas. A famous story tells of three destitute sisters who could not find husbands because they had no money for a dowry. To avert the terrible fate that they might be sold into slavery by their father, St. Nick bestowed presents of gold coins onto the women. One coin fell down the chimney and came to rest in a pair of shoes that were on the hearth, and a second one came through the window and fell into a pair of stockings that had been drying over the fire. The truly modern tradition of elaborate gift giving started to come about in the late 19th Century. Western children are now often encouraged to believe that if they behave well all year round, they will receive extra-special gifts from Santa at Christmas. The Santa Claus myth and traditions of bringing gifts to good children, combined with the rise of capitalist domination and consumerism in western society since the industrial revolution, has meant that Christmas stockings and sacks full of gifts are a huge part of most people's Christmases.

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