The winter gifting season is in full swing. Retailers have already kicked off early sales leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers have begun charting out their traffic jam free route to the mall after Thanksgiving dinner to snatch up amazing gift deals. This modern-day phenomenon, however, is steeped in the great tradition of holiday gifting and varies across cultures.
Gift giving during Hanukkah, or “The Festival of Lights”, came about from the 18th– century Eastern European Jewish tradition of offering small monetary gifts to religious teachers. Gifts exchanged on the last day of Kwanzaa (Swahili for “first fruits”) are meant to symbolize personal achievement and are often handmade vs. store bought. Christmas presents trace their roots all the way back to the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh presented to baby Jesus.
We took a look at some other fun gifting traditions spanning the globe:
Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas was a 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop of Myra. He was known to leave coins in the shoes left on doorsteps. He also became what is known as the modern day Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6 in many European countries. Children set out their shoes the night before and awaken to find them filled with small sweets and toys.
Christmas crackers are a tradition from the United Kingdom. Crackers are small cardboard tubes filled with small toys and treasures and wrapped in holiday paper. When the recipient pulls on the ends, the tube pops open with a snap and crackle sound, and the gifts spill out. Traditionally, crackers are presented and opened at the holiday dinner table with family and friends.
White Elephant Game
The White Elephant gift exchange is a holiday game often played at North American parties. Each partygoer brings one wrapped gift, and each person draws a number out of a hat. This number designates the order in which each person selects a gift from the gift pile. When a gift is opened, the next person in order can either “steal” a gift from someone, or open a new gift from the pile. If your gift is stolen, you can then steal someone else’s gift, or pick an unopened gift. This continues until every gift is opened and claimed.
The Navidad Pinata
In Mexico, families celebrate Las Posadas, which is Spanish for “lodging”. During the nine-day celebration, individuals play the parts of Mary and Joseph and visit their neighbor’s homes asking if they have any rooms available. The night ends with a procession, carol signing and a feast. At last, children break open traditional star-shaped piñatas and scramble to pick up the small gifts, candy and fruit.
Christmas in Ghana is a joyous festival that often lasts for several days. Regardless of religious persuasion, it’s a time where families and friends go from town to town to visit each other, celebrate and partake in a traditional Christmas feast. After a Christmas church service, young children are given special gifts such as imported sweets, cookies, books and clothing from “Father Christmas”, a tradition left over from the British colonial days.