Yet unlike today’s craze of gifting lavish trinkets, the Romans gifted extreme experiences. Wealthy landlords, for example, were expected to pay a month’s rent for those who could not afford it, while masters and slaves exchanged clothes. Emperors even insisted that their most despised citizens bring gifts and offerings as a way to mock them while celebrating the changing of the seasons.
In America, extreme gifting became a staple of Christmas around the 1930 and ‘40s. Advertisements for products began to appear more frequently in newspapers and on TV, capturing attention and prompting an entirely new tradition of quantity over quality. Around the same time, people in the Soviet Union were embracing a simpler but no less important tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Eve. As religion was pretty much stamped out in the Soviet Union, most Christian Holidays were replaced by neutral celebrations like New Year. Yet the traditions of gift giving and tree decorating remained. While there was a “deficit” on most of everything, people still managed to find and barter gifts. The most common gifts exchanged between adults were food items including chocolates, fine liquors, cheeses and teas.
This year, consider gifting as a way to exchange experiences and show appreciation rather than status. Savor the Holiday spirit with a box of delicious Russian chocolates or a cup of traditional Russian tea as a way to bring joy and spend quality time together.