The tradition of gift giving has a history in both celebration and building bonds between communities.
We know that as far back as the Neolithic period, during the time of the winter solstice on the 21st or 22nd of December, Stonehenge was a site for feasting and gift exchanging to mark the end of the year and the start of the next.
The Romans too were prolific well wishers during the period of the New Year, handing out sprigs of their sacred plant mistletoe to bless people with good fortune and later gifts referred to ‘strenae’ to honour the goddess Strenia who represented health and physical being and from whose grove the original luck bringing laurel twigs were sourced. With increased acceptance of the tradition of gift giving, the level of gifts being exchanged was significantly improved as time went on, from simply gestures of good thoughts and blessings to more valuable items like gold, jewelry and property.
Gift giving caught on quickly throughout Europe as it was an effective means of connecting with people, establishing social class divisions, created a sense of fun and cheer and had a significant positive impact on the economy. Once the tradition was mixed with the religious fervor, it optimized its power as an act that unified the community and became a respected part of holidays and special occasions.
During Medieval times and the reign of Henry III in the 13th century all the way up to the establishment of the Commonwealth in the mid 17th century, the practice of giving gifts was used a means to extract taxation from their subjects, and also among peers seeking to find favour with the court where competitive gift giving became a sport of sorts to help climb up various social ladders of the time.
In later years, as the spirit of Christmas became more commercialised by its ability to increase consumer spending during the period, the ‘brand’ of Christmas started to develop, creating the billion dollar industry that we all know today. The end of a year is an effective time for celebration as it gives people the opportunity to hit the reset button on their lives and swallow a psychological pill of hope for a brighter new year.
It is a time for reflection and new growth and the human need to find joy is amplified through the festive décor, the generosity we receive and feel warmed to give and in taking the time to reconnect with friends and loved ones. Building on the threads of this positive emotional fabric being woven through the month of December, brands and businesses are able to encourage spending and giving.
The act of giving a gift can say many things not inside the beautiful wrapping it comes in. It can establish your social status by the value of the gift you can afford to give. It can bring a smile to those who are in need of cheer, it can help support someone that needs help and it can create a better social currency for us all.
Being in the business of time, we at Hawchester, London understand that the precious moments of goodwill and good deeds encouraged in the Christmas season creates very special moments in time that we can never replace. The season’s traditions are quite synonymous with British tradition and most of the traditions that we continue today like the Christmas tree, opening gifts on Christmas morning and Christmas cards are the result of Victorian innovations and celebration!
We wish you all a very merry Christmas and joyful New Year.
The Hawchester, London Team