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Why do we give gifts? Origin and meaning of giving

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Nowadays, we give gifts on certain occasions, give pleasure to other people with gifts or express feelings with them. Gifts have become an integral part of our everyday lives and are taken for granted in most situations. But where does this tradition come from and where did the act of giving gifts originate?

The history of giving

Gift-giving has a very long tradition and has existed since time immemorial. Even in prehistoric times, gifts were exchanged – mostly in rituals. The custom of giving gifts can be found in practically all cultures: With the help of gifts, we establish, maintain and deepen our relationships with others.

In many peoples, it was already a tradition to exchange gifts when meeting or celebrating. People in ancient Greece and Rome lived an intense gift-giving culture to the gods, hoping for good luck and power. This culture continued to develop in the Middle Ages and we still celebrate many of these festivals today. Among the best known are the celebrations of holy days, such as Christmas or Easter. But the tradition of presenting each other with gifts on weddings or birthdays (which were name days back then) has hardly changed over the course of time.

What does giving actually mean?

Today’s word “giving” comes from the word “pouring”. It recalls the medieval tradition of pouring wine for a guest on arrival – which can also be seen as a gift. This act became symbolic of the new form of giving. Giving is thus the voluntary handing over of something to someone.

Modern gift giving

Nowadays, gift giving is a very important part of our everyday culture. With gifts we express feelings and communicate with each other. We give gifts on many occasions and celebrations and always have the common goal of conveying a message. We can use gifts to pass on birthday wishes and get-well wishes, but also to show love or simply say thank you. 

Whereas in the past we mainly gave gifts on birthdays, weddings and holy days, nowadays the gift culture can be found in many areas of life. We also use small occasions for a personal gift, be it the new neighbours moving in, the parents’ wedding anniversary or an exam passed. We give gifts to friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances. 

To find a present, we put a lot of thought into it and invest time and money. The value of a gift does not usually have an effect on the joy of the recipient. Rather, personal wishes or attentiveness count when choosing a gift. This is why individual gifts, such as a Friendship Book or a self-designed Farewell team gift for colleagues, have become very popular and show special appreciation.

Because gift giving makes us happy

With gifts, we give pleasure to other people, show affection and express feelings at the same time. Through the exchange of such emotions, social connections with other people are strengthened. And this strengthening creates satisfaction, improves general well-being and simply makes us happy!

And what could be better than being happy?

You can read about the challenges of finding a present in the next article: 5 TIPS FOR FINDING THE PERFECT GIFT

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