People have been exchanging gifts for a very long time throughout history, but do you ever wonder where and when the tradition began? Most of the traditions that we celebrate today have their roots in the Victorian era, but they did not completely invent the whole idea of Christmas. During the medieval period, Christmas festivities were longer in duration, lasting from Christmas Eve to the 6th January – the traditional 12 days of Christmas. There was much feasting and even gift exchanging between wealthy lords and their serfs.
Many hundreds of years prior to this, Christmas was quite a solemn occasion. For the first 400 years after the death of Jesus, there was no set date for Christmas until Pope Julius I settled the matter and chose the 25th December. Previously the occasion had been celebrated by prayer and reflection in April, May and November.
It is however the Victorian period that epitomises the current notions of Christmas and gift giving. Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge will long be the vision of a perfect Christmas that we all hold onto. It was the custom to give gifts back then, but it would have been one gift, not the piles that we wrap and hand out these days. A Victorian gift would have been a simple doll, a cake or an item of clothing. It is thought that gift giving increased from around 1840 onwards with the introduction of wooden toys, the first commercially produced Christmas card and festive decorations.
During the 1950s and 60s, gift giving did grow although gifts received would still have been far fewer than is expected today. After the Second World War, there was much austerity, so gifts would have been simple, perhaps homemade. From the sixties onwards, the growth of factories and supermarkets saw a massive proliferation in consumerism and the commercialisation of Christmas.
Christmas can stretch many families financially nowadays so it’s important to find special gifts with meaning to avoid buying something unwanted, useless or even duplicated. Choosing a personalised gift will show how much thought you’ve put it into a special present this year. To create a unique design for your loved one, visit personalised lap trays.
The history of the 25th December extends further than the birth of Christianity. The shortest day of the year falls on 21st December, known as Winter Solstice has been celebrated since ancient times and it was most likely a gift-giving celebration for our ancient ancestors. The celebrations around this time were called ‘Jul’ which have now become ‘Yule’ and very much associated with Christmas.