A Look at the Bizarre History Behind Gift Baskets

Gift baskets are a common part of our modern culture. You got them when you were a kid on Easter morning, and you receive them as tokens of appreciation and well-wishes from hotels, business partners, family, or friends.

However, gift baskets aren't a modern invention. They've been around for centuries, stretching back to the time when baskets were far more than just an interesting centerpiece on your dining room table. Let’s take a look at the bizarre history behind gift baskets and how they’ve evolved into the presents we know today.

Gift Baskets Throughout History

In the long ago and far away, baskets were an important part of everyday life. People used baskets to carry food from the garden or to carry smaller animals back from a hunt. Baskets were hung from beasts of burden like saddlebags and worn across the shoulders like backpacks. They were, in a very real sense, a huge part of day-to-day life.

Because of that daily importance, baskets figured symbolically in our mythology as a vessel for gifts and bounty.

Street Directory points out the significance of the goddess Eostre. Eostre was a pagan goddess who was popular in Germanic cultures and represented fertility and life. She's also seen by some as an older patron of the holiday we now know as Easter (in case the name wasn't a dead giveaway). Eostre carried a basket, and in that basket were young plants, which would be given as offerings on this sacred holiday. This is why, when we celebrate the holiday, we tend to give gifts like an assorted fruit drops basket.

Of course, Eostre is far from the only mythological example we can draw on. The horn of plenty, or cornucopia, was the source of the god Zeus' nourishment as a child, when he hid from his father so he wouldn't be eaten. That same horn was often depicted at feasts, spilling over with fruit and sweets, but rather than made of actual horn it was often woven, making it a strangely shaped basket. And, of course, who could forget the story of Moses, placed in a basket and put in the river (along with crocodiles, hippos, and other cuddly beasts), who floated his way into the home of Egypt's pharaoh?

With baskets given prominence in our myths, it was only natural that we gave them symbolic importance as part of holidays and special occasions. And, as traditions expanded and more people interacted with each other, gift baskets became more common.

Going Beyond Holidays

While there's no saying for certain how gift baskets went from a holiday tradition (something you gave a few times a year or at events like weddings) to an everyday present, the transition has definitely occurred. Today, all you have to do is type the words "gift basket" into a search engine, and you'll find gift baskets of all different shapes, sizes, and fillings, ranging from elegant to unusual. You’ll find everything from a basket full of gourmet beef jerky (like the jerky beer bucket) to an arrangement of beautiful fruits and cheeses (like the sweet treats gift basket), and that's just on the first page of results!

It's impossible to say precisely how the gift basket became such a modern-day staple. It remains one of our earliest recorded methods of gift giving (since baskets were a lot more common that sequined wrapping paper back in the B.C. days), and despite all the advances we've made technologically and culturally, it still clings on. Of course, part of that may be because everyone loves getting gifts, and there's something so whimsical about getting a gift basket that it always catches us off guard. And well, sometimes novelty is really the best part of getting a gift.

For more information about creating your own custom gift basket, contact us today!


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