32¢ Holiday Shopping
Issue Date: October 8, 1996
City: North Pole, AK
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
One of the joys of life is doing nice things and giving special gifts to those we love – it is part of what makes us human. And though gift-giving is as old as humanity itself, giving gifts at Christmastime is a fairly recent phenomenon.
Christian charity in the Middle Ages demanded the lord of the manor feed and clothe his serfs on Christmas Day. Southern plantation owners did the same for their slaves, giving them a day of rest as well. Since this was charity, the aristocracy did not exchange gifts among themselves; to do so would have been demeaning.
But times had changed by the 1850s, especially in the hustling, bustling, ever-growing, cosmopolitan city of New York. Native and immigrant residents good-naturedly braved crowded markets to purchase Christmas turkeys and trees. The first Christmas gifts were simple and often homemade – fruits, cookies, and other sweet treats hung on fir boughs. Nonetheless, they were very special. But as Christmas caught on, enterprising merchants displayed sparkling baubles, laces, and toys, and the gift-giving frenzy was ignited.
Christmas today is more elaborate and the selling season is longer but one thing remains constant – each and every gift is a gift of love and goodwill.