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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gilded Age Christmas Gift Giving:
How would you like to be on D.O. Mills' Christmas List?

Victorian Christmas Card
The tradition of gift giving at Christmas time dates back to the biblical story of the three wise men from the East who brought gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh to the newborn baby Jesus.  Christmas gift giving since then has become its own phenomenon and a huge commercial enterprise, but this has not been constant since biblical times.  Waxing and waning in different periods, gift giving became more popular during the Victorian era (1837-1901) and the tradition has continued to grow ever since.

There was a fear that the materialism of gift giving tarnished the holy day celebrating the birth of Jesus, but that idea did not temper the growth of Christmas gift giving.  While merchants in the 1820s-1840s began to notice an increasing number of gifts purchased in the Christmas season, it was not until later that shopkeepers adopted an approach that actively marketed holiday gift giving.  Yet compared to today, Christmas gifts were initially simple and often homemade items like cakes, clothes, and dolls.  Soon manufactured toys began flooding the market and gift giving gradually became more extravagant.  It has developed into an economic engine that drives advertising, marketing, and the economy for much longer than the month of December.