So why do we give gifts during Christmas? When and how did this tradition start?
It was believed that the custom started during Jesus Christ’s birth when three wise men followed the star which led to the manger were Jesus was born. They brought gifts with them to offer to the infant Christ. These include frankincense, gold, and myrrh which individually signified something. Frankincense is used in Jewish worship, hence, signified that Jesus had to be worshipped. Gold on the other hand connotes royalty and Jesus is known as the King of Kings. Lastly, myrrh is a perfume applied to make dead bodies smell pleasant. This somehow predicts Jesus’ death on a cross, or tree in some historical accounts.
But the best gift symbolized by Christmas is Jesus Christ himself and his ultimate sacrifice to be crucified for the remission of sins and redemption of those who put their trust in him.
But gift giving during Christmas has gone a long way since. But one element remains; that is, the presence of a gift giver during this time of the year. A bulky built old man with white beard and red outfit flying through a reindeer held sleigh called St. Nicholas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas is the most popular. In Germany, they refer to such gift giver as Christkind; in Spain, it is the wise men; and in Italy, it is an old woman named Befana.
In most places, gifts are wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree which is to be opened during Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself (25th) in the presence of everyone in the family. For children, gifts may be placed on shoes, boots, and stockings hanging by the fireplace. The latter is a custom which is believed to have originated from the story of St. Nicholas.
Some countries open Christmas gifts at a different time. The earliest of which is in Holland during St. Nicholas’ Eve on December 5. In Belgium, Germany, and Czech Republic, gifts are unwrapped the day after, during St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6. The latest is during the Epiphany (January 6) at Catholic countries like Spain and Mexico.
Schools, workplaces, and organizations also practice gift giving where everyone gets the chance to become a secret Santa and give a gift to whoever’s name they pick during a draw lot.
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