When you're up after midnight on Christmas Eve assembling toys, wrapping presents and putting runaway tinsel back on the tree, you're helping to build strong memories for your family. You're participating in a long tradition of Christian gift giving, too.
No one knows for sure where the practice of giving Christmas gifts started. The wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, and that may be part of it. There's also the tale of St. Nicholas who provided dowries to deserving maidens. By the 10th century, gift giving around the Christmas holiday was a relatively common practice. These weren't the lavish exchanges many of us are used to today, though. Gifts of food were customary, and clothing gifts like socks (the dreaded underwear) and small trinkets weren't uncommon. Small coins were probably given to children, too [source: The Christmas Archives].
If you put an orange in your child's stocking these days, you may get an affronted stare on Christmas morning. Once upon a time, though, even a small remembrance was welcome. Times have changed, but maybe not that much. The exchange of gifts to commemorate the Christmas season is still a celebration of faith for many, as well as an expression of joy and hope.