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Gift-giving and Christmas
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
A magnificent Christmas tree installed at "Paris Galeries Lafayette" on the occasion of Christmas: Christmas or Christmas Day, which means "Christ's Mass" in Old English, is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. The festive period from Christmas Eve till Jan. 5 is called "Christmastide," meaning
Christmas Time or the Christmas season. The period is called Yuletide (Yule time) by the Germanic people.

Can you recall receiving a gift you didn't like? When was the last time you gave someone a gift? Do you like receiving gifts? Have you received a prized gift lately? What was the best gift you've given to someone?

The giving and receiving of gifts is a prevailing practice. Almost everyone likes to receive gifts. Also, there is a gratifying feeling that comes from giving gifts to others. Receiving a present arousing a pleasurable feeling within the recipient, imparting to the giver a sense of satisfaction that a well-chosen gift is well-received. Most conscientious gift-givers will agree that the best part of gifting is seeing the pleasing countenance of the recipient receiving a most precious gift.

Generally, gift giving is practice by almost every culture, nation and tribe. Oftentimes, gifts are exchanged as goodwill gestures. Other times, gifts are used to strengthen friendship and establish alliances. Special occasions that warrant gift-giving are anniversaries, birthdays, graduation and weddings. Then there are celebratory events that honor important achievements like promotions, noteworthy accomplishments or the performance of heroic deeds accompanied by gift-giving.

Clearly, the giving and receiving of gifts is one of life's memorable customs. Gift-giving is such a normal part of our social interaction, most companies include funds for gifts into their annual budgets. Governments also spend sizable sums of their annual expenditures on gifts given to ambassadors, diplomats and visiting heads of states. That's because gift exchange is one of the diplomatic rituals engaged in by governors, prime ministers, and presidents.

Indeed, gift-giving is a well-established, time-honored practice. This good-will gesture is such a widely accepted custom, it is included in almost every holiday. Thankfully, our consumer-driven culture ensures that marketing experts will invariably promote various products for every gift-giving occasion. Most department stores, shopping centers and malls have designated aisles or sections that display gift-sets for Christmas, Easter, Halloween, New Year's, Thanksgiving, and Valentines' Day. Also, every individual has a personal, special day when gift-giving is expected.

Since the earliest human settlement was established, gift-giving was used to bolster coalitions, foster friendships, and build relationships with others. Oftentimes, times, extravagant gifts were used to appease enemies, and pacify rivals. Customarily, symbolic gifts were given to commemorate or pay tribute to the vision of a people or nation. The Statue of Liberty comes to mind as one such gift given by the French to the United States as a symbol of freedom and liberty. This Parisian present extols the young republic as a bastion of hope for the oppressed; for being a land of opportunity for the disadvantaged, and a state that empowers the downtrodden.

Throughout the Bible, the word gift is often used to convey the act of giving or receiving something of value as a benevolent act of amity and charity. Accompanying the religious rites of Old and New Testaments is the custom of bringing a gift to God when worshiping at the temple. It was also a cultural expectation to offer gifts to those in positions of authority, honor or esteemed stature. The giving and receiving of gifts was such a prevalent practice, it was considered a great insult to refuse a gift given in good faith.

Actually, the most meaningful or worthwhile gift was one with symbolic meaning. This viewpoint is probably what the Apostle James intended to convey in the following statement. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)

Generally, divine favor is regarded as godly gifts—(Luke 7:21). Other times, life and favorable circumstance is also regarded as divine benefits—(Luke 7:21). Moreover, the Holy Spirit is regarded as a special gift, given to God’s chosen people (Luke 24:49). Speaking about his redemptive role to the Samaritan Woman, Jesus asserted that he is ‘the gift given by God’—(John 4:10).

Foretelling the eventual birth of Christ, Isaiah (9:6) states; “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Apparently, on the night of Christ’s birth, heaven was so disturbed by the appalling silence about God’s Begotten Son, the angelic emissaries were dispatch to deliver the first evangelistic message. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”—(Luke 2:10).

Immediately after that joyful announcement was made, the angelic host sang the first Christmas carol; “Glory to God in the highest, peace and good tidings to earth; and good will towards men” (Luke 2:14). That was the first Yuletide song; sung on the first night of the nativity. It was the first day of Christmas; the day God gave mankind the greatest of all gifts; the Christ child, humanity’s redeemer, savior and Lord.

On this festive occasion, as we consider the gifts we will give to our loved-ones, may we be mindful that the Christ-child is the reason for the season. It is his birth that we celebrate, his life that we commemorate, his mission that we memorialize, and God’s good pleasure that we honor. So while we hustle to find those special gifts for kinfolks and friends, let us save the most precious gift for Christ. Let us give to him our adoration, affection and utmost devotion. Let us exhibit the Spirit of Christmas in the gifts we give, and the holiday cheers we share. This way, the joys of Christmas will remain long after the gifts lose their significance. May the essence of the season be ever-present in our minds long after Christmas.

Editor’s Note

The writer currently teaches Global English at Dong Yang University. He has also authored a forthcoming book “A Few Choice Words.” He can be reached at

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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at






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