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The Christmas season is now celebrated in one way or another in many countries around the world, even in countries which are not officially Christian and where Christmas is not a holiday, many people still enjoy the gift giving aspect of the celebration.
So why do we give gifts at Christmas? You can thank the Romans.
The Three Wise Men
According to Christian tradition the giving of gifts at Christmas represents the gifts given to child Christ by the three Wise Men however gift giving at this time of the year may be much older.
The Ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice in December during the Saturnalia holiday which included gift giving but as Christianity became accepted across the Roman Empire the celebration of Saturnalia and Christ’s birth may have blended together and the giving of gifts began to represent the gifts given by the three Wise Men.
Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Christian Bishop famous for giving gifts and over time word of his generosity spread and became part of the Christmas story and for many centuries gifts were given on Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th.
The tradition of giving gifts on December 6th and on New Year’s Eve changed in the 19th Century encouraged by the 1823 poem The Night Before Christmas and in 1843 by A Christmas Carol eventually Christmas Eve became the time for giving gifts although today most would give gifts on Christmas Day.
Have a Merry Christmas!