chapter  8
22 Pages


People give to and receive from each other in social relations every day. They give each other formal presents several times a year. But it is at Christmas that they all give at once. If there is a national industry on Christmas eve and Christmas morning, it is the production of used wrapping paper and ribbon. At Christmas both Britons and Americans attend most closely to gifts and gift relations, and it is the one time of the year when they talk to each other, collectively and publicly, about what it means to give. Christmas is appropriate as the topic for this final, substantive chapter of a book on gifts and commodities, because the patterns of the giving and the taking illustrate many of the arguments I have made about how people see themselves, others, objects, and the relations and transactions that link them all. In this chapter I will attend primarily to Christmas in the United States . The points I make apply generally to Christmas in Britain, though there are important differences in the ways people think about and celebrate the holiday in the two countries.