Christmas Gift Giving: Tradition vs Modernity

Christmas is well and truly in full swing, especially if you’re a regular Instagram user, but after the last two years being so disrupted it’s no surprise. I definitely haven’t done all of my gift shopping though and will try to be organised so it doesn’t get left to the last minute.

When it comes to Christmas, it can sometimes feel like there are conflicting ideals. On the one side, there are the religious traditions, and a deep focus on faith and prayer during a holy time. On the other side, there are the more modern norms, that treat the holiday season as a more practical occasion for people to catch up with friends and families and exchange gifts as a way of showing affection.

These two sides of Christmas aren’t as opposed as they might seem – they both come from a desire for unity and community, and achieve it in similar ways. As a bit of a history nerd, I love to learn more about traditions and pastimes, so here are some interesting facts about the evolution of gift giving throughout time


In England, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas goes back thousands of years. Back in the Neolithic period, people used to exchange gifts and feast at sites similar to Stonehenge, celebrating the winter solstice in late December.

People also gave gifts around the time of the new year, with ancient Druids passing out pieces of sacred plants such as mistletoe in order to bring good fortune in the coming year.

There was also a tradition of giving gifts in late December in Ancient Rome, around the festival and public holiday called Saturnalia. In addition to parties and gift giving, social norms were turned on their head, with servants being waited upon by those they usually served.

With the increasing popularity of Christianity, these gift giving customs were integrated with the Biblical gift giving in the story of the Magi, which was supposed to have happened on the 6th of January.

Eventually, all of those traditions were merged into one, giving us the modern form of Christmas that we know today.


These days, Christmas isn’t always as closely associated with religious festivities as it once was – whilst many of us still know and understand the stories, we have varying reasons for looking forward to the festive period. As a result, Christmas has taken on a slightly different meaning.

For most people, it is now seen as a time for people to come together in an often hectic world, to build a sense of togetherness during the depths of winter. Whether with friends or family, gift giving has become symbolic of a sense of care and a spirit of nurturing. All of the previous traditions have ebbed and flowed, resulting in a new tradition that’s both accepting and multicultural.

I enjoy hearing how people celebrate and what people are planning to gift their loved ones. Did you know you can buy Christmas pillows online? I’d love to be able to make all my presents but time isn’t always on my side. If you’re struggling for inspiration with your Christmas gift shopping this year, it’s worth having a look into personalised Christmas gifts. There is always a wide variety of options, each of which can be personalised with a little note or message. No matter who you’re shopping for, you’re bound to find something that’s just perfect. Happy shopping!

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