A Brief History of Gift-Giving

Kate Brown

Posted on February 17 2022

A brief history of gift-giving

For many, the feeling of giving a loved one a great present is even greater than receiving one. It’s hard to beat that glow of satisfaction which arises from making another person happy.

We find heaps of times to give gifts to each other: Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Christmas, Mother’s Day to name a few.

But where does it all start?

Ancient gift-giving

Gift-giving is actually part of our nature. Chimpanzees are known to give food in return for mating privileges or favours from others. Our cave-dwelling ancestors also gave gifts to display success and power, as respect was important to staying within a tribe’s social graces.

Throughout history, those in power expected gifts, also known as ‘tribute’  from their people. Forced gift-giving is certainly not as fun for the givers, but such were the times!

For example, the Pharoes of Ancient Egypt celebrated their coronation day as the day they ascended from humans into Gods. This special ‘rebirth day’ is the first known record of linking gifts with birthdays, so we have them to thank for that tradition. They were showered with gifts, which were eventually buried with them, as it was believed they could take them into the after-life. 

It was custom in Ancient Greece to welcome passing travelers into one’s home with gifts, in case they were actually Gods in disguise. Gifts were given to show emotion and build relationships, as well as offer aid and hospitality.

Christmas gifts

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas comes directly from the Bible. It is fitting we give gifts the same way 3 wise men once gave gifts to a certain special baby called Jesus Christ. These original Christmas presents took the form of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

The tradition was further reinforced by the story of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop and legendary gift-giver. He was also the inspiration for Father Christmas, with countries like Germany believing he was the one to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

Modern gift-giving 

Imagine having to shower your daughter’s marriage partner with gifts just as a thank you for getting her off your hands. Known as a ‘Dowry’, it was once a common practise in Western culture, but has since been left behind.  

Turning 3, 5 and 7 in Japan holds special meaning as these were ages where children once commonly perished. Known as ‘shichi-go-san’, children are spoiled with extra gifts and given sweets from a priest when they visit their local shrine.

One of the greatest symbols of gift-giving is the Statue of Liberty. France gave the iconic monument to America to celebrate their 100th year of Indeprendence in 1886. The statue serves as a reminder to millions of people of the positive relations between France and America. This shows the impact a well-meaning gift can truly have.

With the wonders of the Internet and global shipping, gift options are endless. We humbly believe Dark Hampton is a great gift choice.  Giving a scarf is like giving a friend a warm hug and a reminder of friendship each time they wear it. We offer free shipping within New Zealand and global shipping worldwide, so check out our store.






More Posts