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Christmas Presents And The History Of Gift Giving

By Mary Jo Braun

The popularity of exchanging Christmas presents is a hallmark of today’s society. However, giving gifts to each other is not a modern practice. It can be traced back to ancient Rome and the winter solstice feast, which honored the Roman emperor, as well as the sun god.

The ancient Romans’ celebration of the winter solstice marked one of the world’s first occasions of giving gifts. The Roman god was believed to be directly related to their emperor and the solstice recognized the birth of the god’s son. Officials in Roman society gave the emperor gifts to commemorate the sun’s son and to mark the important event.

Saint Nicholas, a Catholic saint and a basis for today’s Santa Claus, liked to give presents to poor people and to children. He is, in fact, remembered as being generous and charitable to those in need. Advent features his feast day, which is precedes Christmas by only a few weeks. Historians attribute Saint Nicholas’ practice of gift giving to that of today’s society during the holiday season.

American stores began selling Christmas products in the early 1800s. With this, the idea of giving presents to friends and family members grew in popularity. Christmas and its commercialization became established in 1867 when Macy’s first began to stay open late for holiday shoppers. Soon, other stores began to stay open late as well and the holiday shopping season was established.

Radio and T. V. Added to Christmas’s commercialization as businesses and stores advertised their wares on both. People began to flood stores after Thanksgiving to prepare for Christmas. Businesses realized that holiday shopping stood to make them great deals of money. The Internet is the newest venue to add to the holiday’s commercial appeal. Shoppers now flock to Internet sites to buy products online in lieu of shopping at stores.

The yearly exchange of gifts is highly anticipated by many people in today’s world. Yet the modern practice of giving Christmas presents actually dates back to ancient Rome. Saint Nicholas contributed to it when he gave gifts to society’s poor and to children. His feast coincides with Christmas with it being celebrated on the sixth of December.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Braun, Mary J. "Christmas Presents And The History Of Gift Giving." Christmas Presents And The History Of Gift Giving. 22 Aug. 2010. 29 Jan 2016 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Braun, M (2010, August 22). Christmas Presents And The History Of Gift Giving. Retrieved January 29, 2016, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Braun, Mary J. "Christmas Presents And The History Of Gift Giving"

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