Published: 18-12-2012, 04:25

Roman Gifts


Medieval Gifts

Royal Gifts

Gifts: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Gifts

Gifts: Saint Nicholas’s Day Gifts

Gifts: Boxing Day Gifts

Gifts: German Christmas Gifts

Gifts: Julklapp

Gifts: Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and Gifts

Gifts: Conclusion

Historians trace midwinter gift giving back to the ancient Romans. The Romans bestowed gifts and good wishes on friends and family during Kalends, their new year festival. The oldest and, thus, perhaps the most “traditional” of these gifts were small twigs from the groves of the goddess Strenia. Later, the Romans added cakes and honey (symbolizing a “sweet” new year), and coins (symbolizing wealth) to the roster of traditional new year gifts. The Romans called these gifts strenae after Strenia. The modern French word for new year’s gift, étrenne, echoes this old Latin name. In addition to exchanging gifts with friends and family, many Romans offered gifts and vota, wishes for prosperity, to the emperor. The Romans also gave one another gifts for Saturnalia, a winter festival occurring about a week before Kalends. Traditional Saturnalia gifts included wax candles called cerei, wax fruit, and clay dolls called signillaria. These gifts, too, expressed the good will of the sender.