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Why Do We Give Gifts?
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Why Do We Give Gifts?

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Gift giving has been customary throughout history and there are numerous reasons behind the giving and receiving that show the complexities of our social structures.  Every gift given or received has a meaning and each may be different from the next.

Ancient civilisations would give gifts.

There is evidence that cavemen would give gifts of coloured stones or animal teeth to show respect and to build on social structures and community.  This of course would strengthen the group and there is safety in numbers.  For primitive man this shows even then that there was an emotional reward in the giving and receiving of gifts no matter how small and as societies became more elaborate so did the gifts.  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is said to have been a gift!  One theory is that it was built by King Nebuchadnezzar the Second for his wife as she missed the green pastures of her homeland.  Now that is quite the gardener’s gift

Ancient Egyptians would give gifts to the dead to help them transition to the afterlife.  Modern day discoveries of the Egyptian tombs reveal simple objects like bowls and cups, with the tombs of the wealthy and powerful containing gold, jewellery and potions. 

It seems the Ancient Greeks had a similar attitude to gift giving as we do today.  Gifts were given as a mark of respect or love and to build relationships and gifts would be given in the form of hospitality to travellers.  The Ancient Greeks believed that anyone could be a God in disguise and so a roof and a meal would be provided.  Whether this was done for their own peace of mind or as a genuine gift of kindness is debatable but either way, as with any gift shared if both parties feel better for it then it’s a good result!

As the years progress and societies and cultures develop, the nature of gift giving changes again.  In Medieval times gifts were given more as a gesture of love and appreciation but also as a mark of respect or to secure social bonds in the hope of future gains.  For example the introduction of the dowry.  A father would be expected to give a gift in the form of money, livestock or lands to the groom and his family to ensure the safe keeping of his daughter.  The more the father could give the better the match could be made for the bride and her family.  The tradition of the bride’s family paying for the wedding still exists in part today.

Nowadays gift giving is traditional not only for birthdays and Christmas but a whole list of occasions and not always special.  Wedding gift ideas, housewarming gift boxes, new baby welcome boxes, retirement, gifts for pets and also divorce!  It seems we can’t get enough of it!  But why do we do it?

The same reasons apply today as they have throughout history.

To Build and Reinforce Relationships – By giving a gift we show our appreciation for someone, either as a thank you or simply to show that we care, it may be to get something in return which is especially common in business.  The giving and receiving secures a bond between two people.  Even if you don’t like the gift it is considered bad form to refuse it or give it back.

As a Sign of Love – Love tokens and favours have been given and received throughout history.  Henry V111 was notorious for giving expensive jewellery and tokens to his love interests, though we know how that ended for many of them! Flowers and chocolates are just small tokens that symbolise the love and care we have for another person.

As a Way of Helping Someone – This could be a monetary amount, maybe a donation or just a few coins to someone in need, or it could be food to a foodbank.  These altruistic gifts have chemical feel-good reactions which are said to be quite addictive and because the receiver cannot reciprocate the feeling of “doing something good” is reward in itself.

Interestingly research has shown that men are more likely to give gifts to attract a mate and continue giving gifts to her or him to retain and maintain the relationship whereas as women are more likely to gift to a broader circle or friends and relations in order to maintain and strengthen their social bonds.

Here at Oohbox we know the value of gifting and the joy that is felt by both the recipient and the sender.  Whatever your reason, if it brings a smile so someone’s face then it’s a success.