Gift giving has been around since the beginning of time.  Even before we became an advanced civilisation people were giving each other gifts for various reasons, and many of those reasons and customs continue to this very day.

The spirit of cooperation was necessary for survival in early times. When one person or tribe would do another a favour, gifts were given as a thank you. This reciprocal action became a habit over time, and became the polite thing to do.

In tribal times it was customary for emperors, chiefs, and heads of state to exchange presents to show respect; another practice that has carried forward to today across many cultures.

Presents are also given in celebration when milestones are reached, including birthdays and anniversaries, and when accomplishments are achieved such as graduations.

We often garnish others with gifts as a kind gesture, for example when a friend is having a bad day, or when moving into a new home.

And of course there are other times, such as Valentine’s Day, when it’s all about the love.

We have listed a few of the more interesting reasons that people give gifts below:

  • In Japan, it is actually a social obligation to bring gifts back to give to family members, friends and co-workers when returning from holidays..
  • Alaskan whaling crews have a tradition where they generously share their bounty with the members of their village, in return for respect. Essentially they are securing higher status within the community… it may be frowned upon in some countries, but the Inupiat people don’t have a problem with the practice.
  • The Day of the dead (Dia de Muertos) is a Mexican celebration where many families spend large sums of money on gifts and decorations to honour their dead relatives. By doing this they believe the spirits of the dead will bring them protection, good luck and wisdom. 

Even animals have their own reasons for giving gifts:

  • The next time your cat presents you with her kill, understand this. She is not necessarily being generous … it’s more likely that she noticed your poor hunting skills and is taking on her motherly role and teaching you as she would her kittens.
  • A study by an American university proved that bonobos share their food with family, friends and strangers alike as a form of socialising (the human form of this would be the Aussie backyard BBQ).
  • The male bowerbird has to win the heart of his love interest by giving her a nicely decked-out home, otherwise he won’t get a look in. During mating season, he has to decorate his nest with properly hued décor to attract his lady, otherwise she’ll fly on to the next guy to see what he has to offer.

As you can see, there are many reasons for giving gifts, but I’m sure you’ll agree, the most important one is that giving (and receiving) gifts simply feels great.

Author: Suzy Lloyd

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