Gift-giving is a deeply rooted cultural tradition practised by humans for centuries. It is a way to express various emotions such as love, gratitude, and appreciation towards our loved ones. The practice of gift-giving can be traced back to ancient Eastern civilizations, where the new year (Nowruz) and birthdays were celebrated in ancient Persia/Iran and marked with gift exchanges.
The History of Birthday Celebration & Gift Giving
The earliest known account of a ceremony that resembles a classic birthday celebration comes from the Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BCE). He wrote about the Persians and how they loved to celebrate their birthdays which were presumably accompanied by cake eating and gift exchanging.
“Of all the days in the year, the one which they celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the board furnished on that day with an ampler supply than usually. The richer Persians are served with a whole-baked ox, horse, camel or an ass.
The lower social ranks have the smaller kinds of cattle. They hardly ever eat full-course meals but an abundance of side dishes, set on the table in few dishes at a time. This is the reason for the saying that when the Greeks eat, they leave off hungry and nothing is worth mentioning to them after the meats; If someone keeps on putting more food in front of them, they wouldn’t stop eating”.
The Egyptians, on the other hand, celebrated the birthdays of their pharaohs and gods. Interestingly, the Greeks did not celebrate birthdays until much later. Instead, they honoured and paid tribute to their loved ones who had passed away by celebrating the day of their death. However, as they came into contact with other civilizations, they began to adopt the practice of celebrating birthdays, especially for children.
Another early mentioning of a ritual similar to a birthday party comes from the Book of Genesis (40:20-22)
20 And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.
21 And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand:
22 But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
The event described above refers to the Pharaoh’s coronation and his rebirth as a god instead of his actual birth. Whatever the case, this sounds like a bad party, with the baker being hanged, probably because he didn’t make a cake…
Gift wrapping is an equally important aspect of gift-giving with a rich history. In ancient Persia, gift wrapping was considered to be an art form that was just as important as the gift itself. The Persians believed that the wrapping of the gift conveyed the giver’s respect and honour towards the recipient. They would wrap their gifts in brightly coloured fabrics such as silk or cotton and tie them with a ribbon or string. The wrapping was often adorned with decorative elements such as flowers, leaves, or feathers to enhance the beauty of the gift.
Throughout history, various cultures have developed unique ways of wrapping their gifts. Ancient Egyptians wrapped their gifts in linen or papyrus and decorated them with hieroglyphics. Chinese wrapped gifts in silk cloth or rice paper and tied them with colourful ribbons. In Japan, gifts were wrapped in decorative cloth called furoshiki, which was tied with elaborate knots. In Rome, gifts were often presented in decorative boxes or baskets, which were adorned with ribbons or gold leaf.
Today, gift wrapping has become an art form that involves the use of creative designs and materials to make the gift look attractive. From colourful wrapping papers to ribbons, bows, and gift tags, there are numerous ways to make a gift look special. Overall, gift-giving and gift-wrapping have evolved over time, but the underlying sentiment remains the same: to express our appreciation and love for the people in our lives through the exchange of gifts.
Furoshiki Tutorial – Gift Wrapping with Fabric