How much time and thought goes into hunting through a diverse range of gifts for the most suitable one for your friend, wife, husband or child?
The choice is difficult to make when a gift is meant for ourselves and becomes even more so if our beloved ones are involved. The sense of emotional fulfillment we may experience at the sight of the blissfully happy faces of people receiving our gifts is far more important than the delight caused by a purchase for our own needs. So simply keep smiling if you get a gift, which you don't even know how to use. People experience the greatest delight when they give. Let them enjoy the act of giving.
Except when gifts are meant to obtain shameful profits, or benefits to be derived from the incurred costs are carefully calculated. But let's skip over the negative aspects of giving this New Year. A gift not given from the heart is worse than a wicked design.
What should we bring as a gift? Based on O. Henry's famous novel, the best gift a person might give is by making an ultimate sacrifice. The Magi who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger were wonderfully wise men. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. The Magi offered Jesus three gifts, each having a prophetic meaning: gold - the gift for a king; frankincense - the gift for a priest; and myrrh - the gift for one who would die. The Magi were wise men and their precious gifts also conveyed a mature wisdom: gifts are not given for making someone rich.
The idea of giving is absolutely different. The tradition of giving gifts at New Year stretches back over centuries. Excavations in the Egyptian pyramids yielded a vase bearing an inscription, which was deciphered as bearing the words of New Year congratulations. Ancient Persians gave each other eggs, which were viewed as symbols of life. The tradition of gift giving at Christmas derives from ancient Rome. The first Roman New Year gift was a laurel branch promising a rapid march of progress all through the year. The nobility of Mongolia lavished their Emperor with golden items, precious stones and a variety of sumptuous fabrics in the Middle Ages. Elephants, horses and white camels were regarded as the most luxurious of all gifts.
National habits of gift giving vary from country to country. Chinese etiquette frowns upon giving a clock as a gift. The point is that the Chinese word for "clock" is pronounced the same way as another Chinese word meaning "funeral". Among wonderful gifts that win hearts in China are New Year pictures featuring puffy-cheeked kids with a bountiful array of fruit as a symbol of happiness and prosperity.
New Year celebrations and gift traditions, which have been formed in the historical context of each country, are strongly influenced by national traits and features. Paper flowers, fir branches, garlands and lamps are associated with life, light and joy, whereas gilded cones, nuts and apples epitomize the vigor of life.
New Year gifts were not only exchanged but also offered up to the gods to gain their favor. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition centuries ago when devout Christians offered up sacrifices to St. Omela (an evergreen tree) decorating it with garlands. The practice of firecrackers, an integral part of Christmas celebrations, goes back much further in history when it was believed that explosives could keep away witches and evil spirits.
Based on three cyclical movements of celestial bodies, the Chinese developed a calendar, which assigns a certain animal to represent each year. 2013 Chinese horoscopes for 12 Chinese zodiac signs in the year of Snake.
The best New Year gifts are those that incorporate a talisman and the symbolic colour of the year - emerald. The year 2013 will be a year of "economic difficulty" but at the same time will bring bright prospects.
Nicholas the Wonderworker, who lived in a place known as Asia Minor in the 4th century is believed to be behind a large number of anonymous gifts, including a wonderful array of toys, sweets and other useful things, which he left at the doors of poor and large families during the night of Christmas Eve. He is known as Santa Claus in America, Jultomten in Sweden, Ovliin Ovgon in Mongolia, Pére Noel in France, La Befana in Italy (Santa Clause's female counterpart!), and Tovlis Babu - in Georgia.
Present-day gift traditions are no less striking. In Scotland, for example, there is a tradition, in which a friend entering a home on 31 December brings symbolic gifts such as coal, a piece of cake and a glass of wine to make sure the household will always have food, drink and warmth.
In Great Britain children still write letters to Father Christmas to tell him what presents they would like. They follow the traditional practice of throwing their letters into the fireplace, where they will be swept up the chimney for delivery to the magic addressee. To avoid fierce quarrels, family members often draw lots to distribute Christmas gifts among each other. Americans focus on the exterior embellishments more than on what is held inside the luxurious wrapping. In Estonia and Austria, the top hat chimney sweep is considered a particularly auspicious omen of good luck if you meet him accidentally on New Year's Day. Chimney sweep figurines of textiles and pottery are hugely popular. Greenlanders greatly appreciate animal figurines carved out of ice, which they give away as gifts - the climate there guarantees that such gifts will last for a long time. Christmas gifts in Sweden are likely to be dominated by handmade candles and with very good reason: candles always come in handy on short winter days and, besides, they are a symbol of joy and friendship. Things seem to be more complicated in France where a husband may consider perfume to be a good choice of Christmas gift for his wife. However, men other than husbands would do well to avoid selecting a gift from a perfumery - perfumes indicate a personal connection and may carry vague connotations.
Trust your intuition and let your imagination run wild. The most memorable gifts are those which reflect personal interests. New Year celebrations conjure up memories of childhood. New Year gifts are the biggest thrill and reflect the festive mood, especially those meant for children. So take care not to let Father Christmas down!
P.S. And don't worry if your gifts don't meet expectations. Attention and effort seem to be much more appreciated than the actual gifts themselves.