Millions of pounds are wasted each year because few understand the secret language of giving Christmas gifts. Why do we go through with it? Because the Christmas present is about kinship and power; taste and insight; symbolism and values. Over the years, it has become a rich source of PhDs, projects and papers for anthropologists, ethologists and sociologists, not to mention a legion of psychologists.
Gift-giving in primitive human societies was seen by the French ethnographer Marcel Mauss as a way of forging bonds with strangers. Decades ago, the distinguished University of Chicago anthropologist Prof Marshall Sahlins noted that the closer the kinship between the donor and the recipient, the less emphasis was placed on reciprocity and the more on sentiment. >> continue