Money: New Year's Gifts In 5 Questions

The tradition of New Year's Day gifts dates back to Roman times. Despite attempts by the Church and the French Revolution to abolish this practice, it has persisted to the present day, especially for firefighters, postal workers, and building caretakers. But how much should you give and how can you avoid scams? Here is everything you need to know in 5 questions.

What is the origin of New Year's gifts?

The custom of giving New Year's gifts dates back to antiquity. Originally, the Romans presented figs, dates, and honey to their friends and relatives.

Later on, they began exchanging more significant gifts at the beginning of the year, such as valuable objects or coins, while also sharing wishes for happiness and prosperity. Under the Empire, the people would wish the emperor a Happy New Year, and each would bring him a monetary gift.

Note: The word "étrennes" is believed to originate from the name of the goddess Strenia or Strena. In the early days of Rome, in the 8th century BC, green branches from a wood sacred to this goddess were offered to magistrates as a good omen at the start of the new year.

What is the history of New Year's gifts?

New Year's gifts, although condemned by the Church Fathers as a pagan practice, have persisted over the centuries.

This tradition has even been preserved despite changes in the calendar. For instance, the year began on March 1st under the Merovingians, at Christmas under Charlemagne, and on Easter Day under the Capetians. It was King Charles IX who set the start of the year on January 1st in 1564.

From then on, this custom gained significant importance. Despite the decree of November 29, 1789, the National Constituent Assembly did not succeed in abolishing the New Year's gifts received by state agents.

What are the uses today?

Since the end of the 19th century, the custom of giving gifts on January 1st has faded in favor of Christmas. While children rarely receive New Year's gifts anymore, certain professions (postal workers, concierges, firefighters, and garbage collectors) continue to offer their best wishes and receive New Year's bonuses.

Note: The practice of giving New Year's bonuses also exists in other countries such as China and Japan, where New Year's Day is celebrated with the exchange of gifts.

How to avoid scams related to holiday tipping?

At the beginning of the year, it is especially important to be vigilant as fake mail carriers, garbage collectors, firefighters, or EDF (Electricité de France) agents take advantage of the holiday tipping season to show up at your home. The scammers particularly target elderly people.

To avoid scams of this kind, you should:
- ask for the professional ID of the individuals who knock on your door.
- never let them into your home, not even for a moment to look for change.

How much to give for New Year's gifts?

On average, people give between 5€ and 10€ as a New Year's tip to firefighters, mail carriers, and garbage collectors.

For building caretakers, however, it is customary to give between 5% and 10% of the monthly rent. But it is also possible to give a little less in cash and include a box of chocolates with the envelope...

If you wish, you can also give New Year's tips or end-of-year gifts to people you employ at home, such as your house cleaner or gardener. These small gestures are always greatly appreciated.

Author: Audrey
Copyright image: ECB on Flickr
Tags: firefighters, garbage collectors, Christmas, goddess, National Constituent Assembly, November 29, decree, Charles IX, Capetians, Easter Day, Charlemagne, The practice, China, house cleaner, envelope, CASH, Rent, scammers, Electricité de France, EDF, Vigilant, Japan, gardener, merovingians, calendar, Empire, honey, figs, Romans, Antiquity, French revolution, Roman, The tradition, Emperor, Happy New Year, monetary, pagan, Church Fathers, Omen, magistrates, sacred, wood, BC green, Rome, Money,
In French: Argent : les étrennes en 5 questions
En español: Dinero: el aguinaldo en 5 preguntas
In italiano: Denaro: la tredicesima in 5 domande
Auf Deutsch: Geld: Das Neujahrsgeschenk in 5 Fragen
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