Christmas Presents for Men | Victorian Holidays


Meredith Sweetpea is out shopping for holiday gifts. The stores are beautifully decorated and she can’t help but hum along to the jolly tunes being played. She has no difficulty finding the perfect gifts for her female friends and relatives, but when it comes to the men, she doesn’t know where to look.

It is often difficult finding the perfect present for gentlemen. They never seem to need anything, and they don’t really enjoy the pretty little things we women do. The Victorians, it seems, had the same problem, and who knew they had rules for gift giving to a gentleman. Here is what they recommended in this article from Harper’s Bazaar in 1879.

Christmas Presents for Gentlemen

taken from Harper’s Bazar [sic], 1879

Gentlemen do not care for the pretty trifles and decorations that delight ladies; and as for real necessities, they are apt to go and buy anything that is a convenience just as soon as it is discovered. Knickknacks, articles of china, ect,. are generally useless to them.

A Lady cannot give a gentleman a gift of great value because he would certainly feel bound to return one still more valuable and thus her gift would lose all its grace and retain only a selfish commercial aspect.

What, then, shall she give? Here is the woman’s advantage. She has her hands, while men must transact all their present giving in hard cash. She can hem fine handkerchiefs-and in order to give them intrinsic value, if their relationship warrants such a favor, she can embroider the name or monogram with her own hair. If the hair is dark it has a very pretty, graceful effect, and the design may be shaded by mingling the different hair of the family. We knew a gentlemen who for years lost every handkerchief he took to the office; at length his wife marked them with her own hair, and he never lost another. Such gifts are made precious by love, time and talent.

The bare fact of rarity can raise an object commercially valueless, to an asthetic level. Souvenirs from famous places or of famous people, a bouquet of wild thyme from Mount Hymettus, an ancient Jewish shekel or Roman coin, etc. All such things are very suitable as presents to gentlemen and will be far more valued than pins, studs, ect., which only represent a certain number of dollars and cents. Do not give a person who is socially your equal a richer present than he is able to give you. He will be more mortified than pleased. But between equals it is often an elegance to disregard cost and depend on rarity, because gold cannot always purchase it. Still between very rich people presents should also be very rich or else their riches are set above their friendship and generosity.

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