Saint Nicholas of Myra. From a religious standpoint, the act of present giving was first made by Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Greek Bishop, who lived on the ancient territory of today’s Turkey. Legend has it, that the Bishop remained an orphan at an early age and, therefore, decided to dedicate his life to helping other children.
St. Nick, as he was more commercial named, received the reputation of wonder maker and gift giver after saving three poor daughters from becoming prostitutes. The girls came from a poor family and their father could not afford to pay dowry for neither of them. This meant, the girls would have to work for their existence – an activity that would have eventually brought them a bad reputation.
Wanting to help them Saint Nicholas dropped a bag of gold coins by the chimney when the time was for the oldest daughter to get married. The girl had hung her stockings by the fireplace to get dry, so the money felt into one of them.
When the second daughter came of age, St. Nick came and dropped another bag of gold coins by the chimney. The father wanted to find out the name of the secret benefactor, so he waited for him the night when his third daughter would come of age. He discovered that the kind man was Bishop Nicholas and could not keep the secret, so people soon learned that they could receive presents on December 6th.
Celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. The second explanation as to why we give presents on Christmas Eve is related to the birth of Baby Jesus. According to the Bible, three wise men headed towards the place of birth in Bethlehem as soon as they heard that a divine child was born. They brought presents with them, each and every one of them bearing a special meaning. Frankincense symbolizes the divine nature of Baby Jesus, Gold, his royal descending and myrrh, the sacrifice that He would make for humanity.
These two explanations for why we give presents on Christmas Eve may or may not be related. Fact is, Christmas is regarded as Jesus Christ’s birthday; hence, the tradition of gift exchanges.
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