The holiday season is upon us, and gifts have been given to loved ones and friends. After a time of wracking your brains for the perfect gift, you may have wondered what types of items ancient people gave as gifts to one another. In the past, the gifts people valued looked much different to the gifts of today because ancient people had different needs, values and preferences than in the modern age. Odds are, the gifts you received this year were very different to the gifts your ancestors would have received centuries ago. Below are just some of the craziest things ancient people used to give as gifts during times of celebration.
Special rocks are one of the earliest types of gifts identified by history scholars. In prehistoric times, some attractive rocks were given as a gift for mating or to show appreciation. To give a beautiful rock meant that you found something rare that you could have kept yourself, but you chose to give it to someone else. These rocks may have had unique colors or been unusually shaped to set them apart from other, ordinary rocks.
A classic present from the Stone Age. ( BCFC/Adobe Stock)
Ancient humans with more skill may have also given one another shiny animal teeth. The larger the tooth, the more value the tooth had. Teeth that were shined or intact were also considered more valuable than cracked or dirty teeth. Sometimes, these animal teeth would be strung to make necklaces or other accessories, so they could be carried around and shown off by the recipient of such a gift.
Necklace made from dog’s teeth, used in religious ceremonies of the Nguni people. Exhibit of the Museum of Gems and Jewelry, Cape Town, South Africa. (Vassia Atanassova – Spiritia, CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Ancient Greeks had a tradition of giving newborn babies small amulets to welcome them into the world. It was believed that these small amulets had the power to prevent the child from getting sick with different diseases. Some believed that these amulet gifts would also help to ward off any evil spirits haunting the newborn in its earliest days.
Amulet of Ba. ( Public Domain )
Ancient Egyptians had lots of items they liked to give as gifts including jewelry, perfume, and furniture. But did you know they also sometimes gifted holy water? On the Egyptian New Year (around mid-July), Egyptians would celebrate by honoring the gods and wishing prosperity and blessings on their loved ones. As part of this celebration, they would fill small vials with holy water from the Nile River and gift it to those they cherished. By receiving some of this water, it was believed you would encounter blessings from the gods in the coming year.
Candles were used to ward off evil spirits. (BGN-WMCO/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Believe it or not, you can thank the ancient Greeks for those candles on your birthday cake every year. When celebrating someone’s birthday, the ancient Greeks would bring well wishes and lit candles for the birthday boy or girl. They believed that blowing out the candles would help them ask the gods to ward off evil spirits haunting a person on their birthday. This request to the gods would also provide them with spiritual protection in the coming year.
6.Serenaded Love Songs
Men looking to truly impress a lady would sometimes serenade love songs to them in the streets. Many of these men would compose the songs themselves, but other times they would receive help from men in town that specialized in composing love songs. These songs would be sung to women publicly for both celebrations and in attempts to woo them. Even if they weren’t great singers, we’re sure it’s the thought that counts.
Nowadays, we normally bring wine or snacks to a housewarming party. In ancient times, not so much. Ancient people would traditionally bring firewood to celebrate someone’s new home, leading to the literal term “housewarming.” Once the house was warm from the fire made with the firewood, the fire would be used to cook food for everyone who arrived. The celebration would then continue with lots of eating, drinking, and celebrating.
Those looking to give a romantic gift in ancient times would sometimes get a bit crafty. In the Middle Ages , people who wanted to give gifts to a romantic partner would sometimes give them clothes with their hair sewn into them. While these were sometimes gifts for engagements, they were sometimes used as proposition pieces for someone you were interested in. Wearing a coat made with your partner’s hair seems strange now, but it was oddly romantic back in the day.
Yes, spit. The Maasai tribe of Kenya is known for using their spit as a sign of respect for others. They will spit on gifts, handshakes, and even the foreheads of newborns. While spitting is seen as disrespectful in many cultures around the world, sharing your spit is seen as the utmost gift for the Maasai because you’re giving someone your “precious water.” Spitting on someone at a celebration is a way of wishing prosperity, health, and long life. Though this tradition has been going on for several centuries, it is actually still practiced today.
No Spit on My Gift Card, Thanks
Clearly, times have changed when it comes to gift-giving. The gifts we give now are easily accessed on the internet and usually come without spit on them. This year, reflect on the gifts you give and just how much times have changed. Even if things look a little different, the love and appreciation we have for one another have stayed the same.
Top image: Firewood was a gift brough to housewarming parties, literally to warm the house. Source: Adobe Stock Free
By Lex Leigh
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