&Open Jul 03, 2019
The practice of giving gifts is as old as our species. It is primal. It is animal, even. When animals gift each other it is typically about attraction; a desire to be noticed by or to show your affection to another. Why humans gift is more nuanced, but it still comes down to these same ideas.
Since the beginning of time we have given; not just for love, but for allegiance, security and power. What ties all these together is that giving is core to establishing, building, protecting, claiming and securing relationships. A gift is more than a commodity, it is a symbol of the relationship and proof of the value you place on that connection. We give as we live, with a need to connect to one another.
A gift that does nothing to enhance solidarity is a contradiction
Mary Douglas, No Free Gifts
Here are a few of our favourite gifts, given throughout the course of history:
- The first gift
The titan Prometheus gave fire to mankind.
The Ancient Greeks gifted a wooden horse that put an end to the Trojan War.
- Get them flowers
King Nebuchadnezzar II gave his wife, Amytis, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon because she missed her home.
- New baby gifts
The three wise men went with gold, frankincense and myrrh for the first Christmas presents.
- An unforgettable gift
In 1514, King Manuel I of Portugal gifted Pope Leo X a white elephant called Hanno. He loved the elephant so much that he had his portrait painted by Raphael.
- The objet d’art
In 1886 France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty.
- It’s the thought that counts
Trobriand islanders would travel to neighbouring villages to be gifted each other’s dances.
- The gift that keeps on giving
President Truman received a bowling alley for his birthday in 1947, and although he didn’t use it much himself, the White House staff have enjoyed it ever since.
- You get a gift, you get a gift
Oprah’s mass approach to gifting is legendary. She has made extreme generosity her personal brand, turning gifting into a kind of catchphrase.
- The tech gift
In 2009, President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II an ipod loaded with photos and videos of her trip to America two years before.
- A gift for the future
The Giving Pledge is an ongoing campaign encouraging the world’s wealthiest people to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes after their passing.