Gifting Around The World

Gifting Around The World

The desire to celebrate one another is universal and in every corner of the globe unique gifting traditions have evolved. Exploring these offers a window into the heart of other cultures, histories, and people. It also provides inspiration for how we can evolve our relationship with gifting and incorporate intention into the process.



Japan: The Art of Omiyage

Although the word “omiyage” translates to “souvenir”, this tradition is not encouraging you to buy mass-produced trinkets from tourist shops. Rather, this practice is focused on sharing authentic pieces of your journey with friends, family, and colleagues. (1)

Rooted in the ancient practice of bringing back tokens from sacred Shinto shrines, today, these gifts often take the form of regionally-made edible delicacies or locally-crafted art. 

This practice beautifully encapsulates how gift giving can be the springboard for sharing cultural stories and building personal connections.


India: Auspicious Sweets

In India, the exchange of sweets during festivals and celebrations is very common. This practice, deeply rooted in spirituality, is a gesture of goodwill and blessings. (2)

Gifting sweets, whether from your own culture or another, is a beautiful way to open the door to new tastes and experiences - where every bite is a journey of exploration and shared delight.


Scandinavia: The Joy of Coziness 

'Hygge,' is a Danish term that refers to “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”(3) Louisa Thomsen Brits, the author of “The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection,” calls it “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life.”

Because the 'Hygge' tradition stems from Scandinavian countries with cold climates, it is common to gift items that embody warmth and care, like candles or woolen socks. (4) 

You could adapt the concept of Hygge to the Australian context by gifting items that enhance comfort and relaxation during the balmy festive season. Think outdoor living accessories for relaxation (e.g. hammocks or cushions), exploring (e.g. picnic sets, blankets, water bottles), or entertaining (e.g. handcrafted ceramics, natural-fibre linens).


Morocco: The Ritual of Mint Tea

Offering mint tea in Morocco is an age-old tradition symbolising hospitality, friendship, and community. This ritual extends beyond a warm welcome; it's a celebration of shared connections. (5) 

Australia, like many cultures, also has a strong tea-drinking tradition. By remembering that these traditions evolved from a desire for togetherness, we can evolve our practice and apply it to new contexts. This festive season, why not welcome your guests with a refreshing, home-made iced tea, or host a tea party where guests can mix and create their own blends.


Australian Aboriginal Cultures: Listen, Learn, Exchange

Among Australian Aboriginal peoples, the practice of gift exchange is integral to maintaining social relationships. This tradition, often involving the exchange of food or handmade items, is a fundamental aspect of their kinship and community networks. (6)

For example, in 2020, Gamilaraay woman Natalie Cromb and Gomeroi woman Alison Whittaker launched an interstate gift-giving initiative during NAIDOC Week. They observed how many Aboriginal communities were doing it tough, particularly those who were caught in Melbourne's intense Covid-19 lockdowns. (7)

One gift giver, Gugu Yalanji woman Kerry Klimm, said one giftee “would love to see something about nature because they haven't been able to get out”. In response, her sister, a nature photographer, gifted a personal nature print that included a short message "to let them know we’re thinking of them”.

This anecdote shows that by asking questions and listening carefully we can uplift a person's soul. This tradition provides inspiration if you would like to gift with impact this festive season: start by asking them what they need.


Russia: Floral Significance

In Russia, the act of giving flowers is deeply ingrained in social etiquette. The choice of flowers and their arrangement carries specific meanings, making them a thoughtful and expressive gift for various occasions.(8)

In Australia, native flowers and plants also hold significant symbolism, making them a great choice if you are looking for a natural gift with meaning. For example, the kangaroo paw is a symbol of friendship, the Waratah of love and admiration, and the banksia of strength and resilience. (9)


As we explore these diverse traditions, we are reminded that gifting can transcend materiality: gifting is an opportunity to celebrate human connection, extend care to our community, and share our cultural heritage. 

(1) "Gift Giving in Japan: Cash, Connections, Cosmologies" by Katherine Rupp
(2) "The Art of Gifting in India" by Komal Agrawal
(3) "The Year of Hygge", New Yorker,
(4) "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking
(5) "Culture and Customs of Morocco" by Raphael Chijioke Njoku
(6) Aboriginal Men of High Degree" by A. P. Elkin
(7) "Gift Exchange Bringing Joy to Indigenous People Within Victoria", SBS, 
(8)  "Russian Floristry: Tradition and Modernity" by Nina Tatarintseva
(9) "The Beauty And Symbolism of Australian Native Flowers", Floraison Flowers,

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