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The Tradition of Gift Giving As an Expression of Gratitude by Perkal

Historians believed that gift giving started even before human civilization began, when prehistoric men bequeathed women of the tribe small gifts. They believed that the men used gifts of food or tools mainly for the purpose of attracting a future mate. In time, as human societies emerged and grew, the purpose of gift giving evolved as well. Today, gift giving is a tradition that is tied to various social activities and important life events. No matter what the purpose, the handing over of presents is essentially an expression of gratitude or thankfulness-a human emotion that is felt in acknowledgment of the benefits received from another.

We may think that the practice amongst the rich of presenting expensive gadgets or jewelry to people who matter to them as lavish, but we must also look back to the time of the ancients to understand how those before us expressed their gratitude and appreciation. These days, if someone is homesick, we might go out of our way to find an object or a token that reminds this person of home and wrap it up as a present. During the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar II from 605 to 562 BC, he commissioned the building of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, just to please Queen Amytis, his wife who was missing the green hills and flora of Medes, her homeland.

Another generous gift giver of old was Tsar Alexander II of the Romanov Dynasty of Russia. The priceless Faberge eggs, which are now part of various art and jewelry collections around the world, were Easter gifts presented mostly to his wife, the Empress Marie Fedorovna. Nevertheless, the giving of gifts is not exclusive to the affluent. After all, not everyone can afford sports cars, yachts, or customized jewelry with precious stones. Regular folk can express their love and appreciation, too. The magnitude of a person's feelings for another's virtues or gestures cannot be measured by the item's price tag.

In the past two decades, our concept of what is "gift material" has evolved furthermore to include unconventional gift ideas. Now, when we are thinking of options, we consider not only the material things that would bring joy to the recipient. These days, gifts are not limited to valuable objects. Acts of service are also happily given and accepted as presents. It is also rather commonplace to give and receive "quality time" activities to commemorate important life events such as birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones such as graduations and work promotions. Even the rich and famous give away vacations and holidays to friends and family members, instead of presenting them with pricey items in boxes stamped with the names of luxury brands.

The expression of one's gratefulness to another is an innate human trait. As we rush into the 21st century, our notion of gift giving will continue to evolve. Perhaps the only aspect of presenting gifts that will not change is our need to acknowledge our appreciation for a fellow human being who has shown us kindness and generosity. When we give someone a present, we make him or her feel good, and we feel happy as well, having expressed our gratitude.

This article was published on Tuesday 04 August, 2015.

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