|New Year Gift Traditions
New Year gift-giving traditions has its roots from earlier times.
Today, every country has adopted this tradition of gifting. The day
when every gift shop dreams of making it big on the sales chart is
January 1st. The idea behind gift-giving is to greet each other with
warm wishes on the first auspicious day of the year, January 1. It
is believed that this tradition is the best way to heal up sour
relations and develop a feeling of togetherness and love for whom
you care. That is why we say it with flowers and presents. So,
people across the world love to follow this tradition.
The New Year gift-giving tradition has its roots from earlier times.
The Magi were wise men and their gifts were emblematic of tribute,
worship and death - of Christ considered as King, God and the
sacrificial Victim. The Magi are regarded as the pioneer in
gift-giving tradition following the birth of Jesus. But in Europe it
is sometimes said to have been prevalent even before Christ was
born. In France, Switzerland, Russia and Greece, bartering of
presents was in vogue even before Christ's birth. However, it can
certainly be said that the tradition got a new significance, and a
religious one, with the Magi.
From the Celts to the Romans:
The Celtic-Teutonic Druids used to make a gift of their holy plant
mistletoe at the beginning of the Year. Among the Romans such gifts
were called 'strenae', a word said to be derived from the goddess of
luck, Strenia. At first the gifts were branches from sacred trees
meant for wishing recipients an auspicious New Year. Later objects
like gilded nuts and coins bearing the imprint of Janus, the god
with two faces to whom January was sacred. In Rome, it developed as
a compulsory tradition of payment, until forbidden by the Pope in
The Celts or the Druids prepared gifts of mistletoe to mark the
advent of the year. The Romans called them strenae implying the
goddess of luck, Strenia. Rome had also developed a custom of
presenting gifts to the emperor. Initially the gifts comprised
branches of sacred plants, the imprint of Janus the two- headed god.
What began as gifting to the emperor developed into a compulsory
payment, until forbidden by Pope Leo I the Great in 458 A.D. Queen
Elizabeth was precocious of the gift items and made receiving them
The English and the Scots:
The English royalty also began to force their subjects in the matter
of New Year's gifts as early as the time of Henry III (1216-72).
Queen Elizabeth was very watchful of the
"who's and what's" of the
giving and received great amounts in jewels and gold on New Year's
Day. She systematized the practice to the extent of keeping
descriptive lists of the gifts presented to her from all walks of
life. The Queen also forced its people to present her variety of
gifts on the occasion of New Year. She made it a mandatory custom
until it declined when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came into
Restoration and afterwards:
By the Restoration, the custom had declined. Still the New Year gift
exchange was a common practice among the ordinary English people
until the Victorian regime. Some most popular gifts of the time were
gloves and oranges stuck with cloves used to preserve and flavor
wine. This practice of New year gift-giving was brought to America
by English and French who celebrate it earnestly till date.
In Scotland, where New Year is the major festival, gifts were
solicited by bands of boys who went from door to door begging for
money and food and singing the ditty:
" I wish you a Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year,
A pocketful of money
And a cellar full of beer,
And a good fat pig
To serve you all the year."
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