The History Of Gift Baskets by Beverly Sugarman
In olden times, people used baskets to carry seeds as they were planting them. During the harvest, they placed the produce that they had reaped into the same baskets. Due to this fact, baskets have often been associated with planting which usually took place in the spring and harvesting that occurred in the fall. As a result many of the ancient gods associated with agriculture are pictured with a basket.
The Germanic people worshipped a goddess named Eostre. Her festival was celebrated during the Spring Equinox and she was closely associated with the month of April. She was the goddess of dawn, agriculture, and fertility. She was associated with symbols that represent the renewal of life, such as eggs to represent new life and planting utensils such as the basket to represent new growth. She was also pictured with a hare, known for its association with reproduction. All these factors have led to the belief the festival of Eostre may have close ties with Easter, along with its colored eggs, the Easter Bunny, and of course, the traditional Easter basket.
The Greek goddess of the harvest and fertility was Demeter. She was also associated with the basket as she used it to carry her seeds. Her daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld, and in the end the girl only allowed to spend six months of the year with her mother, Demeter's grief during the time away from her daughter caused the winter season. Crops failed to grow and the land became barren. In the spring, Persephone returns to Demeter and the goddess appears with her basket in hand ready to plant new crops. Her daughter also is pictured with a basket as she gathers flowers to take back with her on her return to the dark and barren underworld. Offerings were made to Demeter to ensure a plentiful harvest and many of these offerings included baskets.
Another "gift" that was given in a basket was made by Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram. She gave birth to a son in Egypt at a time when all Hebrew male children were being killed by the Pharaoh. Jochebed weaved a basket, placed her son in it, and set him adrift on the Nile. Upon being discovered and adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter, the child was saved and grew up to become Moses, the emancipator of the Hebrews in Egypt. By giving her son as a "gift basket" that was found by the Pharaoh's daughter, this ensured his survival and resulted in Jochebed being directly responsible for giving the gift of freedom to her people a generation later.
The basket has long been associated with the spring and planting and harvesting, and in Moses's case, as a symbol of hope as well. It is no wonder that the tradition of giving gift baskets has survived into modern times.
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