From The Three Wise Men Who Bore Gifts to Shiny Christmas Gift Cards : The History and Sociology of Gifting | EJ Gift Cards

Remember the glossy gift card for a spa session you received from your friend that is relaxing by itself in your drawer, that you forgot about? With a swipe at the spa center, you can have a nice little session or sell it for some instant cash here. That’s the convenience and choice, technology has brought into the gifting arena.  It hasn’t always been this way, though.

The act of gifting can be traced back to thousands of years. Here’s an infographic that’ll walk you through the history of gift-giving:


Take the crows with you to Christmas shopping the next time

The act of giving and receiving gifts seems so fundamental to the human spirit that it’s no wonder that the tradition of gift giving can be as old as humans. It transcends time, religion, and geography. Maybe even species. Did you know the act of gift giving has even been observed among chimpanzees, dogs, cats, and dolphins? In fact, crows and ravens have been known to give gifts of food, insects and other goodies to their mates not just to impress potential mates but to strengthen the bond between friends and partners. Now that’s something to go awww at. So next time your spouse conveniently forgets to get you a gift on valentine’s, you can bring this out against him.

Some stone-age gifting action

Some researchers have traced back the act of gift giving to evolutionary behaviors. From the times of hunting and gathering, cavemen who gave small gifts must have found it easier to attract a mate. Food, tooth from an animal, a prettily shaped rock or bearskin, the act of gift giving seemed to have been common behavior before civilization even began. With time, the gifts must’ve gotten more elaborate with holes drilled into the teeth to be worn as a necklace or bearskin cut into a skirt. Because nothing impresses a girl like a piece of drilled tooth. Not even a gift card from Gucci.

Peace out, Homie

The tradition of gift giving was not only common among individuals. From time immemorial tribesmen and chieftains have given gifts ranging from herds of sheep, cattle, grains etc  to their neighboring counterparts as a sign of goodwill and to subtly tell them, ‘Let’s play nice.’ And then there were also the gifts of betrothals given at the time of wedding which ranged from precious stones to cattle or land holdings.

Not very lucky in the end, though, were they?

According to many scholars, the distinct culture of gift giving as we know it, began from the Roman tradition of giving good luck tokens of gold called Strenae to the Emperor and each other. This practice eventually escalated and got modified with time where people started to give other types of precious gifts like expensive clothes, ornaments, etc. in order to ask for favors, to be in the good books of the powerful men in their times and to show allegiance. This form of gifting carried over to modern times and had an enormous impact on western civilization even to this day.

Gifts for today, tomorrow and the afterlife.

Egypt presented sturdy stone vessels with a form of monogram called Cartouche that represented class and royalty to its neighbors, the Hittites. During the reign of Pharoahs, gifts were offered to the powerful kings who constructed pyramids to take with them into their afterlife. Massive stores of gold, silver and other gems and gossamer silks were offered to appease the king, and when a pharaoh died, they were buried with him. It was believed to help them navigate the difficult terrains of the afterlife.

Gifts worthy of a King

During the Medieval age where gifts were particularly used to favor the king, and show support during times of war. This became so ingrained in the society that people were almost always expected to visit the king or queen carrying a worthy gift. The Elephant, Jumbo, was presented by the President of Cameroon to Queen Elizabeth for her Silver Wedding. In fact, she has been on the receiving end of some really interesting gifts including tortoises and beavers.

People who gift together, stay together

Gift-giving may appear to be an indicator of economic standards of the society but RIT anthropology professor Dr. Christine Kray believes that you can take that a step further and say gift giving also supports a society’s culture. At least that seems to the case with the Yucatec Mayans and their practice of systematic gift-giving. During T’ox, an ethnic ritualized ceremony the community would come together to share gifts and treats with each other after a day of feast and celebration. And in the process of gift-giving, they followed a sequence where elders were served first and then to others in an almost egalitarian method reinforcing equality amongst people and their respect for the age and wisdom.

When it comes to gifts, the more, the merrier

Native Americans again, for thousands of years now, have practiced a ritual of gift-giving extravaganza- the Potlatch, where they come together for important ceremonies that mark certain life events such as the birth of the first child, wedding, inter-tribal rituals, etc. This act of gift giving were tied into their culture and was an indicator of their economic and social standing. The families who gave away the most gifts received more respect in the society. That makes sense.

Come one, come all

In the Classic Odyssey, Homer talks in great detail about how gift giving has a crucial role in the society. Hospitality in Greek culture or Xenia as they call it, asks for gifts to be given to strangers in whatever form it is possible. Be it material gift or small forms of service such as offering shelter for travelers. According to the Greek poet, we have a duty to be generous in order to maintain positive order and camaraderie in our relationships and the society in general. How very nice of him.

It’s the thought that matters

We cannot go through the history of gifting customs without mentioning Christmas-the biggest gifting season. Chances are you have a handful of gift cards you won’t ever use and have no idea what to do with. Sell it here and get paid instantly.  

You’d be surprised to know that Christmas was not known for gift-giving up until the 19th century. Despite the tales of Three Wise Men’s gifts to baby Jesus. You’d maybe go to a church and quietly observe with your family but that’s about it.

The modern Christmas tradition we have today is a result of quite a long evolutionary process. Gift giving was associated with a different Christian holiday- St.Nicholas Day that fell on December 6. However, with time the two festivals got conflated since they happen to be somewhat close in time. And that’s how the Christmas gift-giving came from.

All I want for Christmas is a World Wonder

Gifting Highlights Through History:

  • Arguably the largest gift between nations is the Statue of Liberty given to the USA by France on the occasion of 100th anniversary of American Declaration of Independence.
  • Of course we cannot overlook the most expensive, romantic gift in the world when we talk about the history of gifting. Located near the city of Agra, by the river Yamuna,  stands the majestic Taj Mahal, the gift from the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal that employed some 20000 artisans to have it built; it has stood the tests of time.     
  • The ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon were presented by King Nebuchadnezzar to his ailing wife.
  • The most infamous gift in history must be the Trojan horse. The Greeks, after a 10 year siege on the city of Troy, staged a retreat. They constructed a huge wooden horse and left it at the gates of Troy. Trojans assumed that it was a victory gift as a result of the Greek surrendering to them, took it into their city and the rest is very interesting history.
  • The Tsar Alexander III gave the first Faberge egg to the Empress Marie Fedorovna to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their an Easter gift. Interesting the egg has a white enamel layer that was puzzling at first. Only for it to open and reveal its large solid golden yolk. This again can be opened to reveal a multi-colored hen which holds a tiny jeweled replica of the crown.
  • Richard Burton, famously gifted Elizabeth Taylor with a stunning 69-carat rare diamond which she wore to then Academy Awards.

The shiny new card

Gift cards are technology enabled, latest edition of the age-old practice of gift giving. Convenient and versatile, it’s hard to imagine how we did without these, for centuries. Gift cards weren’t invented until the mid-nineties. Neiman Marcus was the first company to sell an early version of gift cards but they didn’t quite realize its potential and kept it as a novelty item, not displaying or advertising them.

It was Blockbuster that changed the game by displaying the gift card in its stores. They did this to prevent counterfeiting of their gift certificates that was becoming a problem for them. Thus they initiated the gift card revolution. The next big step was taken by Starbucks, who in 2001 introduced multiple-use cards, so the customers had to keep going back to them.

Today the growth of gift market is faster than the GDP of China and Apple’s stock.The coffee tycoon, Starbucks, alone has sold a whopping 450 million cards last year. That has a net worth of $16 billion dollars.

Never look a gift horse in its mouth. You can always sell it for a good price.

Gift cards have become so popular that at least 1 in 3 people have bought a gift card in their lifetime. But all those gift cards purchased may not serve a purpose for the receiver. If you are looking to dispose of those gift cards lying in your drawer and make some cash that you can put to good use, EJ Gift Cards is the place for you. Maybe you don’t ever seem to get parking spots in front of that particular retailer , maybe you don’t think that restaurant uses enough cheese on their pizza or you’d just like some cash instead of the gift card. We take unwanted gift cards, both digital and physical, off your hands and pay top dollar for it. So someone else can put it to good use and you can make some money in the meantime. Now, that’s a Win Win.

At EJ Gift Cards we accept hundreds of gift cards from several retailers and industries. So no matter what gift card you possess, you can sell it at EJ Gift cards.

We have a simple step-by-step system in place to help make the selling process smooth and trouble free. You don’t have to wait around for checks or bank transfers. Payments will be made through Paypal, as soon as we receive and validate details of your gift cards.

If you need to send in a physical gift card, the payment will be issued as soon the tracking information of the card is made available and confirmed. Any questions or concerns will be addressed by our friendly customer support team to help you through the process., so you get paid quickly. You’ll also have someone to aid you here in case you need a hand with selling your gift card.

Don’t let your gift cards rot to oblivion. You can still benefit from the gifting experience by selling off your cards. Sell your cards at EJ Gift Cards.and get paid-fast!

Note: We only accept digital and physical gift cards. We do not accept bearskins and drilled animal tooth anymore. We can fetch a good price for Jumbo, the elephant though.