Christmas Presents


One of the earliest known customs of giving presents around the time of the winter solstice was during the Roman festival of the Kalends, which occurred on the first day of January. Such gifts were known as strenae.

High ranking officials of the Roman Administration were expected to present gifts to their Emperor during the Kalends. In fact, Caligula went to the extent of declaring an edict which obliged them to do so. He would stand impatiently at the front door of his palace waiting for them to arrive.

Originally, these gifts had taken the form of branches of evergreen taken from the grove of the goddess Strenia; but Caligula was not very keen on olive branches. So, the Roman dignitaries began to give gifts of honey and cakes as symbols of their wish that the new year might be full of sweetness, and gold that it might bring prosperity. That made Caligula much happier, as he was very keen on prosperity, especially his own.

The words 'Kriss Kringle' mean Christ-child and is the basis of a medieval legend, that the infant Jesus himself gave presents. This helped to establish Christmas Day as an occasion for Christians to give gifts. In those days presents were very modest and included such things as cakes, fruit, nuts, dolls and items of clothing.



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