A Short History of Christmas Gift Baskets

Christmas baskets originated in France during medieval times when lords celebrated the charitable aspects of the holiday by giving food to their tenant farmers. Such baskets might contain several loaves of bread, a slab of bacon, a round of cheese and a flagon of beer. Since the tenants’ diet throughout the rest of the year typically consisted of gruel, small ale and the occasional poached rabbit, the items in these medieval Yuletide baskets were very welcome indeed. It’s thought that William the Conqueror brought this custom from Normandy when he conquered England in 1066.

Treat baskets didn’t become a part of popular culture, however, until the 19th century. The Victorians were fond of sentimental traditions in general, and the rise of railroads meant that perishable food items could be easily sent to loved ones who lived far away without fear of spoilage. 

Victorians also continued the charitable institution of giving “hampers” to less fortunate families. Novels from this era, written by authors as diverse as Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott, are filled with descriptions of Christmas hampers and their contents. Used clothing and small gifts of money might be included with the food items. The baskets themselves were also a very useful item at a time when storage receptacles might be considered a luxury. 

The custom of giving Christmas baskets to employees continues to this day. Christmas baskets are also a popular gift for family members, friends and business clients who live at a distance. 

What Should a Christmas Basket Contain?

The contents of a Christmas basket are only limited by the gift giver’s imagination, but typically they contain food items that may be difficult to find or that are representative in some way of the area where the gift giver lives. If you live in an area that’s known for its fruit harvests, for example, you may want your basket to include jams, jellies and compotes from fruit picked in your locality. Alcoholic beverages are acceptable in Christmas gift baskets as well, so if you live in a district that’s known for its wineries or distilleries, by all means include samples of those products. 

Certain foods are traditionally associated with Christmas, of course. If you’re sending a basket to someone who’s living outside the country and who will not have access to these items, it’s nice to include them. Plum pudding, brandy butter, mince pies and fruit cakes all make delightful Christmas basket inclusions so long as they’re packaged securely. 

Choosing the Right Gift Basket Company

Today, holiday gift baskets are a $4.5 billion industry. With so many companies to choose from, how can you choose the right gift basket company to handle your Christmas giving? Here are some things to think about. 

• Proven track record 

Choose a company with a proven track record for on-time Christmas gift delivery. During the height of the Christmas holiday season, it can take two weeks for a package to travel between New York and California.
If you’ve put in your order three weeks ahead of December 25, there’s no excuse whatsoever for a late delivery of your basket. If you’ve placed an order after December 10th, the company you’re dealing with should make it clear to you that you may have to pay more for FedEx or UPS delivery options. 

• Secure online credit card processing 

It’s important to work with a company that offers secure online credit card services. You’ll recognize them because the credit card processing page will begin with “https” instead of “http,” and because the site has a digital security certificate. These two pieces of information mean that the website you’re working with is encrypting your transaction on both ends so that the data packet containing your credit card information is protected from hackers. 

• Personalization 

Some companies offer you the opportunity to customize the gift baskets you’re sending. This will give you the chance to make sure the contents of your Christmas gift match the health and diet preferences of its recipients. Whether you want to customize the contents of the Christmas basket or not, you’ll always want to include a personal note with your gift.
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