Who invented holiday gift giving?
A guy with a store.
Too cynical, though not entirely off the mark. Historically, if we can regard the Bible as history, and who’s to say it’s less accurate than any of the other stuff they wrote back then, the gift giving tradition began on "Day One", if by "Day One", you mean A.D., and not B.C., in which case it began considerably later.
Sewn inextricably into the lining of the gift-giving tradition was the disturbing manifestation of gift-giving anxiety.
As exemplified in its original outing. Which we shall currently revisit.
Ext. Holy Land: Night
The Three Wise Men are camelling towards their distination, guided by a star.
Note: In this retelling, the Wise Men will be designated by the gifts they are delivering: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Okay, here we go.
THE NIGHT IS QUIET, EXCEPT FOR THE SOUND THREE CAMELS CLOMPING OVER SAND.
Frankincense: I’m a little worried about my present.
Gold: How so?
F: (STANDING FOR FRANKINCENSE, SO I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP WRITING IT EVERY TIME) I’m concerned about its appropriateness.
G: (DITTO) What is it you’re bringing again?
G: And remind me what that is?
F: It's an aromatic gum resin.
G: Now I remember. And you felt that was appropriate because…?
F: Frankincense is known to have soothing properties. It’s calming. I thought after the turbulence of childbirth, people might enjoy a little calming influence.
G: I suppose. But have you noticed how quiet it’s been? A starlit firmament. Barely a breeze, not a peep out of anything. If I were a weather man – or a songwriter – I would say, “All is calm, all is bright.”
F: So you’re saying they won’t need a calming influence.
G: It seems somewhat unnecessary.
F: You’re right, they’re going to hate it. I mean, you know, they’ll be all nice and everything. “Ooh, frankincense! What a lovely present!” But you can sense they don’t mean it. You’re angling for reassurance. “Are you sure you like it?” And they say, “We love it! It’s amazing, actually. We were just talking about running out of frankincense, and my husband said, ‘Maybe I should pick some up’, and I said, ‘Hold off a little. Maybe we’ll get it as a present.’ And wouldn’t you know it? Here it is!” I despise this agonizing charade. I’m starting to wish that I’d brought something else.
Myrrh: You wish.
F: I forgot about you. Your gift makes no sense whatsoever.
M: That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?
F: Myrrh? First of all, myrrh is also a gum resin. I mean, three gifts. And two of them are gum resins? These people are going to have to be really good actors to pull off an appreciation of this.
M: Well, there is a substantial difference between my present and yours. Yours is an aromatic gum resin. And mine is a bitter gum resin.
F: Used in embalming. You’re giving them a burial spice. I sure hope you kept the receipt.
M: You bet.
F: Remember, you promised me. I give my gift first. I go third and it’s, “Oh, another gum resin. You can’t have too many of those.”
M: I don’t know. Maybe after my gift, an aromatic gum resin would be a step up.
F: I’m going first!
M: Okay! Okay!
G: I think you two are making way too much of this. Remember: "It’s the thought that counts."
F: Spoken like a man who’s giving gold.
G: It’s simply what came to mind.
F: Yeah right, you big showoff!
G: You could have brought gold.
M: “Gold, gold and myrrh.” They’d certainly remember me then.
F: Why do you always have to be better than everyone else?
G: That’s not how I thought about it.
M: Oh, sure. “What gift I should bring? I know. Something that makes everyone else’s gift look terrible and cheap.”
G: It’s not a lot of gold. It’s just a small pouch.
M: Even the pouch is better than my present.
G: If you’re so unhappy with it, then you should have gotten something else.
M: Like what?
G: I don’t know, baby booties.
M: Gold, frankincense and socks. Yes, that’s much better.
F: (TO G) Why didn’t you get baby booties?
G: Because I brought gold! Dear Lord! Do I have to apologize for being the only one who’s bringing a decent gift?
F/M: (TOGETHER) Yes!
F: The truth is, we have no idea who we’re bringing this stuff to. They could be loaded. They open the pouch and it’s like, (BLASÉ) “Oh, more gold. Throw it on the pile.”
G: You’re just saying that to upset me.
F: Maybe. Or maybe your gift turns out to be the stupidest one of all.
G: You know, I think we should stop talking for a while.
M: You’re the boss.
THEY CAMEL ALONG IN SILENCE. FINALLY…
F: Are you sure we’re going the right way?
G: I’m following the star.
M: Maybe we should stop and get help.
G: That’s not necessary.
F: Ooh, “Mr. Gold Giver.” Too good to ask directions.
G: That’s ridiculous! Directions to where? We have no idea where we’re going!
F: Okay! You’re turning all red. Take it easy.
M: Maybe you should give him some frankincense to calm him down.
F: I’d rather give him some myrrh.
M: Oh, for embalming. I get it.
G: You know, all this bickering. It’s because of the presents. If only we could honor special occasions a different way. A celebratory song perhaps.
F: Could this suggestion arise from the fact that you happen to be a really good singer?
M: He won a tribal citation.
F: Let’s just stick with the presents.
M: And hope that they’re resin fans.
THE WISE MEN RIDE ON.
G: (QUIETLY, TO HIMSELF) Everybody likes gold.
THE CARAVAN OF THREE DISAPPEARS INTO THE DARKNESS AND NEW TESTAMENTAL HISTORY.