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Les milles et un dessous du cadeau

The thousand and one secrets of the gift

Here we are … a few weeks before Christmas, the list of gifts to offer is growing (but not our budget!). Thinking about some of them are moments of pleasure and excitement, others are a real burden, but the injunctions are such that we have little choice, we have to check off our entire list!

And you, do you like receiving a gift? Or do you prefer to give one? Behind this gesture, which has existed since the dawn of time, lies a whole psychology, and the best and the worst.  History and deciphering.

The Italian theologian and philosopher Gilles de Rome offers his Treatise on the Government of Princes to Philip the Fair (miniature from the end of the 13th century). In the Middle Ages, the recipient of the works was one of the key elements of its success.
Image: Besançon, municipal library.

An ancient history

Already cavemen exchanged gifts, even primitive ones, like an animal tooth or a beautiful stone, which could be worn as a necklace. The Egyptians gave gifts to the pharaohs on the day of their coronation or to put in the pyramids for the life they were supposed to have after their disappearance. As for the Greeks, they invented birthday gifts to ward off evil spirits and thus send a message to the gods.

In Ancient Rome, there is a tradition of strenna (strenae in Latin), linked to the goddess of health, Strenia and marking the first day of the year.  In the Middle Ages, giving books was a very valuable gift… Throughout the world and in all cultures, gift giving is a universal act that sends a message of expression of one’s feelings for another person.

The functions of the gift

 The gift allows the giver to express a feeling to the other, whether it is love or affection, and to mark the relationship that exists between two people, by affirming or confirming the social bond that unites them.

“It is the intention that counts”, but not only! Because beyond its emotional value, the material value of the gift can disturb the relationship, and it is preferable to respect a certain reciprocity. Otherwise, it can be badly perceived, either because the gift is too beautiful and expensive and induces a will to dominate the others, or because it is not enough and induces a lack of recognition. Moreover, there is not always intention, nor feeling, but obligation, and when the gift is forced, it loses its joyful character and becomes a thought consisting in spending for useless products… Doesn’t it remind you anything? Your endless list of Christmas gifts, some of which are made with the greatest of hearts, and others just because they have to be made, to respect the injunction of a perfect Christmas.

The psychology of the gift

“Tell me what you offer, I will tell you who you are…” The gift can be a way to relieve guilt or to apologize, as well as to settle accounts and show that one has a certain contempt for the other.

Giving a disproportionate gift shows a personality focused on appearances, and being sensitive to what people will say. Not to offer any or very little marks a lack of generosity, or even a certain stinginess etc.

But in any case, it is rarely a totally free act, since one seeks to please but also to trigger a reaction from the other, and also to please oneself. In fact, the gift is an exchange, both voluntary and obligatory: giving implies receiving in return, which then implies giving back. It is therefore essential in social life, because the refusal to give, receive or return breaks the bond.

The art of the gift, or the art of loving

It is the one we remember, the gift made with love, gratitude, which shows that you love and that you know you are loved. The gift that makes sense because it expresses how important the other is to you. To give the right gift, it is the one that provokes emotion, surprise, that is very personal, showing that the other is unique. Yes, we admit it, it is particularly difficult when someone has everything, or is insensitive, or when we offer out of obligation, because it paralyzes all inspiration ! Moreover, receiving can be just as difficult and revealing… absence of gratitude, disappointment, embarrassment of having nothing to offer in return, absence of desire to create a link with the giver, all cases exist.


The “good” gift is all the more precious because it is rare, one person out of two at Christmas says he or she received a gift that was of no interest! Uh… it happened to us a lot, didn’t it?

“A present is an ode to presence” as the philosopher Marie Robert wrote so beautifully…

So let’s put some presence and tenderness in our gifts, and let’s go back to our childish souls with shining eyes, ours and others’. Let’s add some heart, with a little loving personal note, a pretty original wrapping, which turns the smallest package into a festive moment. This can be furoshiki, an ancient Japanese technique of folding and knotting a cloth, adopted by the nobility in the past, to wrap their precious belongings. Moreover, it is reusable, so it is ultra ecological: 0 waste! Or why not a beautiful wrapping paper…?

Gifts at TiL

To prepare this 2nd Christmas of TiL and make your presents real attentions, delicate and nicely prepared for those who are dear to you, we have imagined a surprising decoration…


The talented illustrator-designer Phillipe Goron, has drawn a real fresco of the family estate in Dordogne, recreating its very emotional universe like a travelogue.  It is then sealed with a sunny yellow ribbon, the color of linden blossoms, and synonymous with abundance and joy. So beautiful that this gift paper can be collected, to recreate, like a puzzle, all the domain, to be framed, to be recycled in a home-made collage and even, why not, to be recolored with the children! 

Eco-responsibility and originality guaranteed, to emerge in the ocean of red and green Christmas packages. 

And let’s not forget, life is a gift! “Yesterday is a past story, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  Beautiful words to express what we should have in mind every day… barring a very serious event, life remains a gift to be savored without moderation, here and now.


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