The origin of the Christmas Presents

The origin of the Christmas Present seems to have a number of different sources.

The earliest references to presents being given on or around the Winter Solstice comes from Ancient Rome during the feast of Kalends. High ranking officials were expected to give gifts to the Emperor since the Winter Solstice celebrated the birth of the Sun God, to whom the emperor was directly related.

Another early source of gift-giving comes from St. Nicholas, who was remembered for his charitable giving. Often on his feast day parents would leave small gifts of chocolate or fruit for their children. His feast day slowly came over time to be associated with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity on December 25th.

Gift Giving in the modern sense starts in America in the 1820s. What had once been the simple practice of exchanging small gifts exploded into the full-fledged consumer driven holiday we now know. The first advertising for Christmas Gifts is found in the early 1800s, around 1804. By the 1820s ads began to spring up more and more, and by the 1840s they were an integral part American Society. This sudden interest in gift giving may be tied to the rise of Clement Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

Many people in today’s world claim that “Christmas today is all about presents, not like when I was a kid”. In truth people have been claiming that for over a century and a half. Harriet Beacher Stowe, of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” fame, wrote a story in the 1850s where a character complains how when she was a child, “the very idea of a present was new!” and that, “there are worlds of money wasted at this time of year.” Unlike all the other people who are nostalgic for the Christmas of their childhood since, Harriet Stowe was correct, the commercialization of Christmas did occur in her life time.

Sources for the History of Christmas Presents >