5. The Giving of Gifts at Christmas has nothing to do with the Three Wise Men
Today, the giving of gifts is central to Christmas- and big business to boot. Although this over commerciality is often lamented by those who feel it detracts from the central message of the festival, presents have always been a part of the Christian celebrations-even if people didn’t give them on Christmas day. Up until the 1800s, it was customary to present gifts on New Years Day, close to Epiphany, when the magi presentation the infant Christ with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those who could afford it used it as an excuse for giving lavish presents, while others gave donations of food and clothing to the poor St Nicholas’s Eve.
However, once again, pagans and present giving at midwinter went hand in hand. On December 23, the Romans held the festival of the Sigillaria, a day when particular markets were set up to sell sigilla, the pottery figures that along with wax candles were made as offerings to Saturn. As time went on, the Saturnalia celebrations absorbed the Sigillaria, and instead, Sigillaria markets became a place to buy Saturnalia gifts for loved ones and patrons. As of today, these gifts gradually became more and more opulent- and expensive, with many Romans spending more than they could afford.