Exchanging Gifts Through Fiction

Christmas-Tree-Gifts-640x480Christmas morning is just around the corner.  Children are reaching a crescendo of excitement anticipating the possibilities of their gifts. Parents on the other hand, are desperately trying to find more time in order to complete their holiday shopping.   Whether you are a child or adult the act of holiday gift giving and receiving is a major cornerstone of society.  The tradition of gift giving to celebrate Christmas, while not definitive, traces its origins back centuries.  This longstanding culture has in turn made the act of exchanging holiday gifts a literary theme throughout fiction.


There are several possible ways the tradition of exchanging gifts has come to be a major part of the Holiday season.  In 350 AD Pope Julius I declared December 25th as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth.  A popular theory states that Christmascelebrations adopted winter-solstice traditions, which pre-dated Christ.  Another possible origin stems from the story of Saint Nicholas in the 4th century, who believed that children should enjoy their childhood and gave presents to the less fortunate to bring joy to little boys and girls.  The most prolific roots of Christmas tradition are in the story of the biblical Magi, or three wise men or Kings.  As the story is told in the Gospel of Matthew the Magi came from the East to worship Christ, born the King of the Jews.  To honor the new King the Magi brought symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


It is from these beginnings that we find today’s traditions of exchanging gifts.  In literary works, Christmas gift storylines range from major plot twists and turns to entire book themes.  I still find myself filling up with anticipation as a character receives a gift that has a major influence on the storyline.  Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility Christmas morning, Peter, Susan, and Lucy’s gifts from Father Christmas in The Chronicles of Narnia, and yes even Ralphie receiving his Red Rider BB gun.

Ralphie with his Red Rider BB gun
Where do you see Christmas gifts in literary fiction today?  Does it take you back to that time as child when you were brimming with anticipation or have you succumb to the holiday shopping stresses?  Do you find yourself wanting more of Holiday themes and traditions in today’s fiction?  Or do you find yourself longing for less gift and more Christmas season?


Posted on December 14, 2012, in Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I tend to think of Terry Prachett’s Hogfather when giving gifts at Christmas and, when the Hogfather goes missing, Death steps in to fill his roll and give presents to the little children.

    Death: “What do you want for Christmas, small human?”
    Little Girl: “I want a sword!”
    Death pulls a sword from his bag: “Here you go.”
    Girl’s Mother: “You can’t give that to her! She’ll hurt herself!”
    Death: “And that will be a very important lesson.”

    I laugh every time I watch that scene!

  2. Great post, Jamie! I personally love Orson Scott Card’s A War of Gifts – in battle school, the boys rebel to sneak gifts to each other despite their superiors’ clear ban on anything reminiscent of home.

  3. Because I am a Harry Potter nut, I think of Harry and the Invisibility Cloak and also in the movie when the little Santa is zipping around the Burrow. That’s too cute. This year I am focused much more on giving than stressing about that giving. It means so much to me to give gifts that make my family, especially my kids, smile. It’s hard to focus on this right now w/ the tragedy in CT weighing heavily on my mind. The truth is we all need a lot more love, to spread that love and maybe things like this won’t happen. Happy Holidays to all.

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