Part of a series on the traditions of Christmas
Christmas has always been a time to give and receive presents. It all goes back to the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh given to Jesus by the Wise Men. A few centuries ago it was the custom for the rich to give gifts to the poor. Wealthy householders were obliged to open their homes to the local poor. It was also customary to give your feudal lord a gift at Christmas to show your loyalty
The tradition of children receiving gifts has grown with the rise and rise of Santa, which we’ll come back to later. But more generally the giving of gifts has been driven by the commercial pressures of Christmas. We see more on sale, we want more and we expect more. Long gone are the days when children were delighted with a chocolate doll and an orange.
The first shop to see the commercial possibilities of Christmas was Woolworth’s which began to sell Christmas as a time to spend, spend, spend as far back as the end of the nineteenth century. At the beginning of that century the main Christmas expenditure was had been on food and drink but by 1900 shopping for presents had become part of the Christmas ritual.