Why do We Give Presents at Christmas?

The holiday season brings on times of joy, merriment, and gift-giving. Whether you find the perfect Christmas gift ideas for Mum, spend hours shopping online for a toy for your child, or donate time and resources to charities, there is a definite tie between gift-giving and Christmas. But where does this tradition originate? How has it changed throughout the years?


A Little Bit of History

A child receiving a handmade gift centuries ago is a far cry from the holiday present extravaganzas common today in modern society. Holiday shopping in 2018 is still imbued with the generous nature of Christmas, but has a more significant economic impact than the simplicity of earlier years. In fact, before the 1800s, Christmas was a time of revelry and charity, yet not a time of extensive gift-giving.

In fact, originally gift-giving has been done on different days. For example, in Spain and Latin America Three King’s Day is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. Children leave their shoes outside for Santa Claus to come and bring them presents. St. Nicholas Day, or December 6th, is another day associated with Christmas and gift-giving. Traditionally, December 25th became the date to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus around 350 AD. Gift-giving mirrored the giving of gold, frankincense, and myrrh by the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings). This was interpreted in many ways, from rulers insisting subjects give gifts to them each year to gift given between families and communities.



In the 1800s entrepreneurs in business realized that gift-giving could lead to profit. During the late 1800s, there was a growth in the number of toy factories and children’s book publications. In some places, like New York City, the burgeoning middle and upper classes found Christmas to be a good time to celebrate their financial success through giving gifts.


At the same time there was a constant pull between the needs of the lower classes at this time. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens told the tale and struggles of the working class and the ruling classes. Another work of literature, Twas the Night Before Christmas, popularized the idea of children receiving presents on Christmas Day.

Christmas Gift-Giving Today

Worldwide Christmas gifts results in billions of dollars’ worth of sales. Entire industries rely on the short few months around Christmas for the bulk of their sales. Christmas is also a time of charity and giving. Globally there is a sharp uptick in the amount of donations and volunteering done at this time of year.


In Australia alone over forty-eight billion dollars was spent on Christmas gifts, according to the Australian Retailers Association. Top items include clothing and footwear, but toys and technology are also popular gifts. The holiday season is a great time to show your loved ones that you care about them through generosity and charity. Enjoy the happiness that giving brings this Christmas.

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