Since the dawn of time people have been giving gifts. People in early civilizations gave gifts to their tribal leaders and each other to show loyalty and love. They used bark and wood from the trees, and reeds to fashion unique objects as gifts. Gift giving has always been reciprocal, except for the heads of state in various cultures. They received gifts in order to procure favor and to demonstrate allegiance, a practice still in place today.
The Bible highlights many examples of gift giving. The three wise men brought gifts to the Holy Child. Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet with precious oil as a gift. We are told that if we have a gift to leave at the altar and have a grievance with our brother, that we should resolve the wrong before we give the present.
There are many worldwide gift traditions. In Egypt, idols and pyramids were built to honor the pharaohs. In the medieval age, gifts were given to kings to gain personal favor or allegiance in a war. Most of those gifts were silver and gold and jewels: chalices, medallions, statues, and other articles. Gifts were also given to a beloved one or used as dowries for betrothals, which could include a herd of animals, or precious metals and jewelry.
Today we give gifts for a myriad of reasons. Presents are given at cultural religious occasions and seasons. We give gifts for birthdays, holidays, farewells, good luck, to show love, to say thank you, to welcome, and “just because”. We give presents to family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Our selection of gifts may include jewelry, gift baskets, toys, clothes, gift certificates, and flowers and plants.
Sometimes a gift is intangible. Children give their parents coupons for yard cleanup, dish washing, cleaning the house and other chores they might not ordinarily perform. We give time to our family, friends, and neighbors when they need help. Volunteers donate their energy to various charitable organizations.
Every so often, we give a present only because it is time to give a gift to someone. Sometimes we don’t even want to give a gift, but feel obligated to do so. We struggle over picking out a present that will be appropriate for the occasion. Instead of being a wonderful opportunity to show someone that we care, it becomes a difficult task. Hopefully, no one has this experience very often, if ever.
Receiving a gift is part of the gift-giving process. Giving a gift makes the giver feel good. Making someone else’s life richer rewards the giver with a feeling of achievement and caring, especially if the recipient shows gratitude and appreciation. Many times, this is why we wish to be the gift giver rather than the recipient, but receiving is important in this reciprocal practice of gift giving.