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.
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 458 AD.
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 mandatory.
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 power.
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."