The secret symbolism of Christmas presents
With Christmas fast approaching you may feel as if your ‘to buy for’ list keeps getting longer; and that finding the right gift for everyone can be a challenging task. Our friends at Activity Superstore have released an interesting article on the psychology and history behind gift giving. It looks at how the gifts we choose and the way in which we present them communicates so much about us, our feelings towards the receiver, and the complex social structures within our community.
Why do we give gifts?
Key life events and celebrations such as Christmas, birthdays, weddings or anniversaries stand out as the occasions when we feel most compelled to give gifts. However, there are other underlying reasons for why we might choose to do so.
To build relationships
Presenting a gift to another individual can establish or reinforce relationships. According to French sociologist Marcel Mauss, the act of not gifting or rejecting a gift communicates the dismissal of a relationship.
A way of showing love and commitment
Gifts are used to communicate the feelings someone has towards another person. A great example of this is when a man offers flowers to their partners as they are traditionally thought to symbolise feelings of love.
Ever heard the saying ‘it’s the thought that counts’? Opening a gift may fill you with happiness, or even disappointed if it wasn’t quite what you would’ve wanted, nonetheless; receiving a present makes you feel something. This is because we attach symbolic meaning to the gifts we give and receive.
To receive something in return
In today’s notion of gifting, there’s often an expectation that this offering will be repaid by receiving something in return. However, it’s essential to get this bit right, as gifting too much or too little can cause embarrassment or hurt feelings.
To help others
On the other hand, we give presents with the knowledge that this gesture won’t be reciprocated, such as to children or our pets. Appreciation for the recipient is the biggest motivator in this type of selfless gifting. Another example of this would be donating to charity, which gives us the feel-good factor.
To find a mate
Animals such as Chimpanzees are known to give gifts as part of the mating ritual, and humans are not much different. A study found that males who gift more generously have a higher success rate of attracting mates compared to females who are more likely to buy gifts for family and friends.
Still not sure what to buy your significant other? Use the gift matrix below to help you make the final decision.