A gift or a present is an item given to someone without the expectation of payment. The gifted item should not be owned by the recipient. Although gift-giving might involve an expectation of reciprocity, a gift is meant to be free. In many countries, the act of mutually exchanging money, goods, etc. may sustain social relations and contribute to social cohesion. Economists have elaborated the economics of gift-giving into the notion of a gift economy. By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other happier or less sad, especially as a favour, including forgiveness and kindness. Gifts are also first and foremost presented on occasions - birthdays and Christmas being the main examples.
In many cultures gifts are traditionally packaged in some way. For example, in Western cultures, gifts are often wrapped in wrapping paper and accompanied by a gift note which may note the occasion, the recipient's name, and the giver's name. In Chinese culture, red wrapping connotes luck.
Gift giving occasions
Gift giving occasions may be:
- An expression of love or friendship.
- An expression of gratitude for a gift received.
- An expression of piety, in the form of charity.
- An expression of solidarity, in the form of mutual aid.
- To share wealth.
- To offset misfortune.
- Offering travel souvenirs.
- Custom, on occasions (often celebrations) such as
- A birthday (the person who has his or her birthday gives cake, etc. and/or receives gifts).
- A potlatch, in societies where status is associated with gift-giving rather than acquisition.
- Christmas (People give one another gifts, often supposedly receiving them from Santa Claus, the Christ child or Saint Nicholas.)
- Feast of Saint Nicholas (People give each other gifts, often supposedly receiving them from Saint Nicholas.)
- Easter baskets with chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate rabbits are gifts given on Easter.
- Greek Orthodox Christians in Greece, will give gifts to family and friends on the Feast of Saint Basil.
- Muslims give gifts to family and friends, known as Eidi, on Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan) and on Eid al-Adha.
- Jews gives Hanukkah gifts to family and friends.
- Hindus give Diwali and Pongal gifts to family and friends.
- Buddhists give Vesak gifts to family and friends.
- Gifts are given to among African American families and friends on Kwanzaa.
- A wedding (the couple receives gifts and gives food and/or drinks at the wedding reception.)
- A wedding anniversary (each spouse receives gifts.)
- A funeral (visitors bring flowers, the relatives of the deceased give food and/or drinks after the ceremonial part.)
- A birth (the baby receives gifts, or the mother receives a gift from the father known as a push present.)
- Passing an examination (the student receives gifts.)
- Father's Day (the father receives gifts.)
- Mother's Day (the mother receives gifts.)
- Exchange of gifts between a guest and a host, often a traditional practice.
- Retirement Gifts
- Congratulations Gifts
- Engagement Gifts
- Housewarming party
- Ironically, gift giving also refers to an HIV negative person consensually receiving the HIV virus. See Bugchasing.
Legal aspects of gifts
At common law, for a gift to have legal effect, it was required that there be (1) intent by the donor to give a gift, and (2) delivery to the recipient of the item to be given as a gift.
In some contexts gift giving can be construed as bribery. This tends to occur in situations where the gift is given with an implicit or explicit agreement between the giver of the gift and its receiver that some type of service will be rendered (often outside of normal legitimate methods) because of the gift. Some groups, such as government workers, may have strict rules concerning gift giving and receiving so as to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Lewis Hyde remarks in The Gift that Christianity considers the Incarnation and subsequent death of Jesus to be the greatest gift to humankind, and that the Jataka contains a tale of the Buddha in his incarnation as the Wise Hare giving the ultimate alms by offering himself up as a meal for Sakka. (Hyde, 1983, 58-60)
In the Eastern Orthodox Church the bread and wine that are consecrated during the Divine Liturgy are referred to as "the Gifts." They are first of all the gifts of the community (both individually and corporately) to God, and then, after the epiklesis, the Gifts of the Body and Blood of Christ to the Church.
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- Marcel Mauss and W.D. Halls, Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, W. W. Norton, 2000, trade paperback, ISBN 0-393-32043-X
- Lewis Hyde: The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, 1983 (ISBN 0-394-71519-5), especially part I, "A Theory of Gifts", part of which was originally published as "The Gift Must Always Move" in Co-Evolution Quarterly No. 35, Fall 1982.
- Jean-Luc Marion translated by Jeffrey L. Kosky, "Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Giveness", Stanford University Press, 2002 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 0-8047-3410-0.
- (French) Alain Testart, Critique du don : Études sur la circulation non marchande, Paris, Collection Matériologique, éd. Syllepse, 268 p., 2007
- Review of the "World of the Gift"