How has Gifting Evolved with Time?

Giving gifts is not just handing out a wrapped box. It is basically how we express our deep-down feelings and emotions. However, gift-giving today is not how it was decades ago. The nature of gifting has changed significantly from primaeval times to the present day. This post will give you a tour of the history of gift-giving by showing how it varied across different periods & cultures and how it is today.

Gifting Evolved with Time

Gifting Through the Times

The practice of gifting has been in existence since the advent of human civilisation. Know the ancient traditions of gifting from around the world to understand how the concept of gifting evolved over time.

  • Gifting in Pre-Colonial Times: The age-old tradition of gift-giving is since the time of cavemen! The leader of the tribe would hand out gifts like uniquely-shaped rocks, animal teeth, tree bark or precious stones to acknowledge the person who has accomplished something big for the tribe.
  • Ancient Egyptian: According to Egyptian history, the deceased were buried with gifts/goods, usually required for the afterlife. The ordinary gifts would include regular objects such as combs, utensils and food, while there were wealthier options too like idols, jewellery and other valuables. Primarily, their purpose was to help the deceased into his next life.
  • These people were also responsible for the tradition of gift-giving on birthdays. A pharaoh’s coronation day was considered even more important than their birthday. Pharaohs were given unique, royal gifts such as jewels and crops to commemorate this day.

  • Ancient Greece: Elaborative, communicative and decorative gifts were given to convey emotions and build relationships. Families would welcome travelers into their homes as they believed them to be Gods in disguise. They were given a proper welcome including a place to rest, a meal and gifts as a sign of respect & hospitality.
  • Mediaeval Period: Come the Middle Ages, gifts were exchanged to foster social bonds or show allegiances to influential people and institutions such as the King, Minister or Church. The concept of dowries was introduced to promote relationships.
  • Middle East: Arab people are known for their politeness, hospitality and friendly nature. They take their gift-giving very seriously. Other than gifting on birthdays, weddings, Eid, Ramadan, etc., gifts are also exchanged with neighbours, doesn’t matter if you know them well or not. In fact, if you even express an interest in any object in their homes, Arabs are generous enough to make you leave with the thing in all possibilities.
  • The Rise of Online Shopping

    Today, gift shopping has become way too convenient. You have hundreds of thousands of online gift items at your disposal and can get them shipped even to the other side of the world at a click of a button. Besides, the gifts have now become more meaningful, elaborative and personalised. It has become a trend to customise even classic picks such as chocolates, accessories and cakes with the recipient’s name, photo or initials.

    Then there is a rising popularity of gift cards too that gives the liberty to the recipient to buy anything they want or like.

    Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Different cultures follow different gift-giving practices which have only evolved with time. However, the underlying objective remains the same, i.e. to spread happiness and joy.