The Evolution of Gifts and How They Became Personalized

The Evolution of Gifts and How They Became Personalized

Gift-giving is such a natural part of our lives that we never question its origin. The holiday season is here, and we’re all rushing to get our loved ones gifts they’d appreciate, but the question looms in between the shopping trips and the eventual opening of gifts, “what is it that started this culture, and how has it evolved through time?”

Why Do We Give Gifts?

Birthdays, weddings, holidays, anniversaries — gifting has become a prominent and integral aspect of our modern society. It’s so interwoven in our culture that, according to a study, Americans spend an average of $998 on gifts, holiday items, and other expenses.

Why is this so? What compels people to spend a significant amount of their annual income on giving stuff to other people? The answer isn’t as straightforward, though. However, we know that humans are social animals that want to be liked and are often competitive.

The Need to Be Liked

Think about how commonplace gifts are in our lives: from providing our house guests with an exceptional meal, to bringing donuts for everyone in the office, to buying a wedding present for a close relative or friend. We don’t just give gifts due to gratitude — it’s an act to strengthen our relationships with people around us.

We’re a social species that relies on cooperation and relationships to survive and traverse through life, and gifts are the medium of that bond that we build. Gift-giving involves considerable effort, where the selection is carefully based on the likes, dislikes, and detailed knowledge of the recipient. This makes the gift giver feel invested and as a result, the recipient feels seen, loved, and appreciated. At the end of the gift exchange, both parties feel great.

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The Competitive Nature of Humans

Yes, gift-giving is all about our need to be liked but it’s also a player that feeds us competitiveness. Marcel Mauss wrote a compelling and descriptive essay on gift-giving, titled An Essay On the Gift: The Form and Reason of Exchange in Archaic Societies. He goes over the concept of gifts enhancing relationships but says there’s also a competitive side to gift giving.

According to Mauss, gift-givers rarely ever give unconditional gifts — they, unconsciously perhaps, create a benchmark to judge the reciprocated gift. In simpler terms, gift-givers expect to get gifts in return. This return gift doesn’t have to be given at that time, nor does it have to be a physical thing; it could be a favor or a relationship as well.

How Is This Related to Personalized Gifts?

We’re naturally driven toward giving unique gifts and it’s unsurprising how the gift-giving culture continues to evolve. We have an abundance of occasions that require gifts — a friend is getting married? Your kid is getting good grades? Holiday season? Someone is sick? Give a gift — and that increases the annual spending to a good $998.

But, this isn’t how it was always done. Gift-giving increased in popularity during the 1800s, turning it from a generous activity to an expected duty. Plus, retailers were quick to see the benefit personalization played on products. Before understanding how personalization occurred, we should understand what prompted the popularity of gift-giving in the 19th century.

The Evolution of Celebrations

December has been a time of the year to celebrate for centuries. Europeans were among the first to celebrate the winter solstice, while Romans honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, in December. Other cultures went the same way, celebrating harvest by drinking, eating, and dancing for a month.

This is how religious leaders came up with the idea of celebrating the birth of Jesus at the same time as winter solstice celebrations to increase Christmas participation. This is when Christmas turned gift-giving into a holiday tradition and slowly turned the wheel. Over time, the celebrations changed from being harvest-incentive to celebrating friends and families with small gift exchanges.

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The Book that Led to A Rise in Gift Giving

Around this time, when holiday traditions were being explored, Charles Dickens released A Christmas Carol. The story highlights the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from an antisocial, selfish, and miserly man to someone who embraces the holiday spirit of celebrating with family, friends and learns the importance of giving generously. This book’s positive message was a hit among people and helped shape Christmas into what we know today: a season of giving selflessly, generosity, and love.

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The Personalization of Gifts Through Books

Believe it or not, books were the first thing that inspired personalized gifts. The modern gift-giving culture became commercially successful after retailers used marketing and money to bring forward seasonal gifts. The traditions were already sent by the end of the nineteenth century, and retailers took this opportunity to promote holiday gifts. This is the same time period when the American middle class was rising economically, making gift buying easier.

Among these retailers, book publishers started the commercialization of gifts as books could be produced in high numbers easily. They created special, limited edition books and started marketing and selling them as holiday gifts. These books came to be known as “gift books”, becoming the first product to be personalized.

Gift books started the trend of “presentation plates,” which were placed on books and used by the gift giver to inscribe the name of the recipient with a special message. This started the process of personalization, leading to the development of personalized gifts.

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The Modern Era and the Rise of Personalized Gifts

With the personalized gift market established, personalization continued to evolve and gave the gift-givers a different and unique way to impress the recipients. During the early 2000s, the internet made it possible for people across the world to buy gifts, and we’ve never looked back. This era changed the face of retail: from brick and mortar stores to digital businesses.

Today, we have on-demand production and customization available to us and stores no longer need to produce an insane amount of personalized inventory so that local touristy shops can display the most common names printed on key chains and shot glasses. Consumers no longer have to select items for a catalog, waiting weeks upon weeks for a custom print to arrive, hoping dearly that everything was properly written down.

Instead, production has gone to newer levels where gift companies and producers collect specific orders, personalize the product during a single run, and ship it off to the customer. Plus, mistakes rarely happen because before the order is approved, there’s time to proof the item.

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So, Is It The Internet That Invented Personalized Gifts?

Although it seems like personalized gifts got a head start due to the internet, that’s not quite true. Early gifts, hundreds and thousands of years ago, were all personalized. How is that so? Well, because they were handmade for a specific person or occasion. Manufacturing on the go didn’t exist, and there was no sign of technology, so retailers sold daily life commodities and not gifts. This meant that all the gifts had to be handmade, and were of course, personalized.

Personalized Photo Gifts: A New Way of Gifting

Another factor that has contributed to the unstoppable growth of personalized gifts has been the universality of photography and its ever-increasing technology. Before the creation of smartphones and digital cameras, it was common to see spot retailers offering film processing in their stores. They would develop pictures, sell film, cameras, and more. This was a selling point for many of these retailers.

Alongside developing films, retail photo developers also came up with the idea of printing pictures on giftable items, including mugs, blankets, shirts, and books. This created a huge stir among people, taking the personalized gift industry in a new direction.

Today, there are no film processing counters; instead, drugstores now feature kiosks where digital photos can be printed and personalized items are no longer ordered at these counters, they’ve gone online.

The popularity of digital cameras has diminished the use of film and film development altogether, yet personalized photo gifts remain a popular item among people, making a large portion of the entire personalization market.

What Comes Under Photo Personalized Gifts?

The personalization market showcases a range of photo products, including:

  • Wall Décor Items: These include personalized canvas prints, posters, signs, and collages.
  • Photo Cards: Photo cards make for 40 percent of the revenue in the photo personalization market, including birthday and wedding invitations, greeting cards, and personalized postcards.
  • Calendars: They’re used as family gifts and in business giveaways.
  • Photo Gifts: All items with photos, for example, mugs, shifts, ornaments, towels, diaries, etc.

The Rapid Growth of Personalized Gift Market

According to research by Market Research Future, the personalized gifts market is expected to surpass $38.66 billion by 2027, which represents a growth of over 50 percent from 2016, when the market was estimated to be $20.5 billion.

This growth has been led by the internet, which has given rise to new possibilities. Considering gift-givers seek out personalized gifts, personalization seems to be the ideal choice to provide them with this.

Where To, From Here?

Driven by our desire to build strong relationships, to be liked, and to compete, gifting giving has become a very important societal tradition that’s not going away anything soon. Add in the growing market, which keeps coming up with enticing and brilliant ideas to promote gifts; the production and innovation of gifts are here to stay.

Continued advancements in technology also impact the gifting market for the better, and that gift personalization will likely continue its evolution through the end of time. In the end, it all comes down to the spirit of generosity and kindness that we carry to ensure we don’t turn into a walking-living Scrooge. It makes us and those around us feel good, and that’s what matters in the end.

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Why Choose Amour Prints?

In the gift-centered world, it’s important to find a place you can depend on for perfect, heartwarming gifts. Because gifts are an important aspect of our lives and determine the depth of our relationships, we need to choose something our recipients can resonate with. That is why Amour Prints is the go-to gift shop for people all across the US and beyond. We’ve taken the initiative to make gifting a personal thing, and we stand for all things warm, and lovey.

Amour Prints understands the language of gifts and love, and how closely knit-together they are. This is why we provide our customers with custom canvases that will stand the test of time and last forever.

We provide our customers with the best — our canvases are made with state of the art technology for printing to ensure nothing is lacking with our printing quality. Our canvases are made of poly-cotton for durability and color brightness and have lifetime UV protection for vibrancy. This makes our canvases resistant to time, that’s why they come with a lifetime warranty.

Gifting is intimate, and we believe there’s a gift out there for everyone. That’s why our custom canvas prints are so popular — they speak a story words can't describe. With us, you and your loved ones get to relive memories through music art canvases or romantic couple canvas art. We have something for everyone, whether it’s your well-loved spouse, your fiancé, your partner, your parent, child, or a dear friend. Because connections matter, and we must strengthen them.

Go through our extensive variety of custom canvas prints and choose the perfect gift for your loved one. Our range of personalized canvas prints includes lyric art canvas, romantic couple canvas art, Spotify cover art canvas, custom baby Spotify music canvas, music notes lyrics canvas couple canvas prints, custom sheet music canvas, wedding song lyric canvas art, American flag canvas art, love custom music art canvas, and more.

We also understand that choosing the right gift from a sea of choices can be a difficult task. This is why we have a canvas quiz to help you out. Whether you want something special for yourself, or want to gift a special someone with a canvas they’d love, we’re here to make the process easy.

Contact us today and let your personalized gifts speak for themselves.