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Christmas Gifts History
“Christmas Gift” is an expression traced back as early as 1844 in the southern United States. It is derived from the tradition of saying “Christmas Gift!” among typically poor African American and Anglo farming families in rural areas, when people would wake on Christmas morning and rush to say “Christmas Gift” before anyone else. The person being told “Christmas Gift!” is expected to present the person saying it to them with a present. In addition, while “Merry Christmas” is the common and current seasonal salutation, “Christmas Gift” was an equivalent expression used in the rural south and also in southern Pennsylvania, Ohio Valley, West Virginia, and later in northeastern Texas as a simple greeting and recognizing the birth of Christ as a gift.
“Christmas Eve Gift” is another variation. The Dictionary of American Regional English traces the first written uses of “Christmas Eve Gift” back to 1954. The tradition is similar to the “Christmas Gift” tradition, but occurs on Christmas Eve. The person being told “Christmas Eve Gift!” is expected to present the person saying it to them with a small present, traditionally candy or nuts.
A gift or a present is an object given to someone without the expectation of payment. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. In many countries, the act of mutually exchanging money, goods, etc. may contribute to social cohesion. Economists have elaborated the economics of gift-giving into the notion of a gift economy. By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favor, including forgiveness and kindness. Gifts are also first and foremost presented on occasions – birthdays and Christmas being the main examples.
In many cultures gifts are traditionally packaged in some way. For example, in Western cultures, gifts are often wrapped in wrapping paper and accompanied by a gift note which may note the occasion, the recipient’s name, and the giver’s name. In Chinese culture, red wrapping connotes luck.
Legal aspects of gifts
Main articles: Gift (law) and Gift tax
At common law, for a gift to have legal effect, it was required that there be intent by the donor to give a gift, and delivery to the recipient of the item to be given as a gift.
In some countries, certain types of gifts above a certain monetary amount are subject to taxation. For the United States, see Gift tax in the United States.
In some contexts gift giving can be construed as bribery. This tends to occur in situations where the gift is given with an implicit or explicit agreement between the giver of the gift and its receiver that some type of service will be rendered (often outside of normal legitimate methods) because of the gift. Some groups, such as government workers, may have strict rules concerning gift giving and receiving so as to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Ghost of Christmas Present
The Ghost of Christmas Present was the second of the three spirits (after the visitations by Jacob Marley and The Ghost of Christmas Past) that haunted the miser Ebenezer Scrooge, in order to prompt him to repent. When he first appears before Scrooge, he invites him to “come in and know me better, man.” According to Dickens’ novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears to Scrooge as “a jolly giant” with dark brown curls. He wears a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carries a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia, and appears accompanied by a great feast. He states that he has had “more than eighteen hundred” brothers (1,842 to be exact, the story being set on Christmas Eve 1843, the year of its publication) and later reveals the ability to change his size to fit into any space. He also bears a scabbard with no sword in it, a representation of peace on Earth and good will toward men.
The spirit transports Scrooge around the city, showing him scenes of festivity and also deprivation that were happening as they watched, sprinkling a little warmth from his torch as he travels. Amongst the visits are Scrooge’s nephew, and the family of his clerk, Bob Cratchit.
The spirit also shares a vision of Tiny Tim’s crutch, carefully preserved by the fireplace. Scrooge asks if Tim will die. The Ghost first states that “If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die” (i.e., Tim’s illness is curable, but the Cratchits lack the funds for Tim to receive proper treatment, courtesy of Scrooge’s miserliness), then – quick to use Scrooge’s past unkind comments toward two charitable solicitors against him – suggests he “had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge is disgusted at his own words and is concerned for Tiny Tim and his family.
The spirit finally reveals to Scrooge two emaciated children, subhuman in appearance and loathsome to behold, clinging to his robes, and names the boy as Ignorance and the girl as Want. The spirit warns Scrooge, “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”, underscoring the book’s social message. The spirit once again quotes Scrooge, who asks if the grotesque children have “no refuge, no resource,” and the spirit retorts with more of Scrooge’s unkind words, “Are there no prisons, no workhouses?”, filling Scrooge with self-loathing.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, having already aged, reveals that he will only exist on Earth for a single year’s Christmas holiday. (As the nature of the present is to only exist in the now, this is why this ghost can only exist for one Christmas, and why he has 1842 brothers. Note the year that Charles Dickens’ story was published. This would be the 1843rd Ghost of Christmas Present.) He finally disappears at the stroke of midnight on Twelfth Night, and leaves Scrooge to face the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, as it approaches “like a mist along the ground”.