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A gift or present is the transfer of
money, goods, etc., without the direct compensation that is involved in trade,
although possibly involving a social expectation of reciprocity, or a return in
the form of prestige or power. In many human societies, the act of mutually
exchanging gifts contributes to social cohesion. Economists have elaborated the
economics of gift-giving into the notion of a gift economy.
By extension the term gift can refer to anything that makes the other more happy or less sad, especially as a favour, including forgiveness, and kindness (even when the other is not kind).
The background may be:
Someone has more than another
Something bad happened to another
Expression of love or friendship
Expression of gratitude for a gift received
Custom, on occasions (often celebrations) such as
A birthday (the person who has his or her birthday gives cake, etc. and/or receives gifts)
Father's Day (the father receives gifts)
Mother's Day (the mother receives gifts)
Christmas (people give each other gifts, often supposedly receiving them from Santa Claus)
Saint Nicholas (people give each other gifts, often supposedly receiving them from Saint Nicholas)
A wedding (the couple receives gifts and gives food and/or drinks at the wedding reception)
A funeral (visitors bring flowers, the relatives of the deceased give food and/or drinks after the ceremonial part)
A birth (the baby receives gifts)
Passing an examination (the student receives gifts)
Supplying food and/or drinks to someone invited in the home
Giving a round of drinks in a bar.
A gift may either be an ordinary object or an object created for the express purpose of gift exchange, such as the armbands and necklaces in the Trobriand Islands' Kula exchange.
A gift can also be a special talent or ability that was not earned through the usual amount of long and difficult practice but instead comes easily to the recipient in a natural way. A person with such a gift is said to be "a natural" or "gifted" in that field of endeavour. A gift, in this sense, can be thought of as being given by God or by nature: a God-given or natural gift received by one at birth. For example, a fluent and entertaining speaker is said to have "the gift of gab".
Ritual sacrifices can be seen as return gifts to a deity. Sacrifice can also be seen as a gift from a deity: Lewis Hyde remarks in The Gift that Christianity considers the Incarnation and subsequent death of Jesus to be a "gift" to humankind, and that the Jākata contains a tale of the Buddha in his incarnation as the Wise Hare giving the ultimate alms by offering himself up as a meal for Sakka. (Hyde, 1983, 58-60)
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