For anyone worried about last-minute present-buying, or if the guaranteed-by-Xmas delivery van doesn't deliver on time, relax. History is on your side. Gift-giving on Christmas Day is quite a new confection. Until 200 years ago, the big event was January 6th.

That date, Epiphany in the Christian calendar, is said to mark the visit of the magi bearing gifts. So 6th January is blessed with a certain logic as the day to exchange seasonal offerings. It also naturally closes the twelve days of Christmas, designated a sacred and festive season since the sixth century.

In many European countries, though, 6th December is the gift-giving day. This marks the feast of St Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek bishop, and the patron saint of children. We might want to leave aside he's also the protector of a whole host of ne'er-do-wells, including brewers, coopers and students. But of course, his best known incarnation is as Santa Claus. By all accounts, old St Nicholas was an inveterate giver of gifts to the deserving, but always in secret. It is not recorded how much he valued carrots and a glass of milk by way of return.

Moving to Modern Times

The Santa Claus we know today, of course, has less to do with St Nick than with New York. The red-coated, white-bearded figure on those first Fifth Avenue advertising posters in the 1920s rather cleverly combines the mythological with the clerical. Santa Claus is both the rumbustious medieval solstice celebrant Father Christmas, and the pious rewarder of good behaviour wearing the robes of the church.

Whichever way we look at it, whichever date we favour, we all know that gift-giving involves as much opportunity for apprehension as unbridled joy. Will our gifts be well received? What do we say on opening another pair of comedy socks? For the Victorians, gifting began as a matter of exchanging little more than trinkets. Today, to combat over-commercialisation, some families impose a four-present regime: something you want, something you need, something you wear and something you read. A little balance always benefits.

Perhaps we just need to remind ourselves that it really is the thought that counts. Christmas should after all be a time for thinking of others not ourselves. So forgive us if we quietly suggest the thought of giving the gift of Gusbourne this Christmas.

We're offering three festively packaged gift optionsour two-bottle Christmas Pair, our Sparkling Trio and our six-bottle A Gusbourne Christmas. Each one comes gift-boxed with our best festive wishes and positive thoughts to all.


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