What is a Sussie gift? A Sussie gift is a type of Christmas present given to children by members of the household. It is called this because as of 2013, it was about 12 inches in height and weighed about 5 pounds. This type of package has been said to have originated back during the World War II era.
The first use of the word sussie in connection with Christmas presents appears to be found in print material dating back to 1928, which referred to “sissy” gifts that were wrapped with care and then sent away by an adult or other village elder (perhaps in the hopes they would spread happiness). The name “sissy” was thought to stem from a combination of “secret” (since the gift was kept hidden until Christmas morning) and “surprise” (putting the receiver in a state of joy).
The History of Sussie’s
While it has been said that sussie gifts are older than mankind, J. Michael Miller of the University of Kansas says he’s found sussie’s in his research as far back as ancient Babylonia. In the period between about 1900 and 1918, he writes that young girls were given baskets filled with goodies like candy and dolls by older women. The children would then be taken to meet children living in another village. To them, this was a grand treat.
The word sussie’s may be of Greek origin, according to author Doug Wilson. Sussie is the Greek word for “little sister” or “little brother”, he says. In Modern Greek, it means little one. So Christmas presents for kids may have been called sussie’s because they were from an elder who was the child’s older sibling or an elder who was seen as a helper and protector (a modern example would be a favorite aunt or uncle). Sussie’s were more likely to be given by elders in that period than by other children, Wilson writes.
On the other hand, Edward Wagenknecht writes in his 1953 book Christmas in America: A History that sussie’s were first given by elders or other adults rather than by children, and that the original “sissy” gifts were not typically given on Christmas. Instead, says Wagenknecht, they were given on the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6. This occurred in what is now New York state in 1659, he says.
It seems clear enough that gifts given to young people by elders are known as sussie’s no matter what day they’re received. And they’re a time-honored tradition too.
The Tradition of Sussie’s
In the late 1800s, sussie’s were still connected with Saint Nicholas, but they were also given in modern-day Germany. At that time, the presents were given to children during a party that included clergy. In some German villages, children got three types of gifts called sussie’s: one from their parents and siblings, one from Santa Claus (who may have been a local individual playing him), and one from St. Nicholas. Gifts could be anything small like a candle holder or toy parts, depending on financial status. A whole doll was considered a luxury item.
In the 20th century, as Christmas gifts were getting bigger, sussie’s become possibly a variation on the modern concept of Christmas presents. They were given in exchange for good behavior during the year and on occasion could be given to people who didn’t celebrate Christmas. For example, they may have been sent to children living in other villages or by other benefactors, giving them an opportunity to pay homage to their elder. The custom was still around when Santa Claus first made his appearance in America (the 1940s). In fact, some of the earliest images of Santa Claus show him with sussie’s in hand.
As with the tradition of Christmas presents in general, some people may have felt that sussie’s were not part of their celebrations. After all, everyone received gifts on Christmas morning, and there was no sign of Sisyphus rolling a huge gift. Wright and Schiff (2002) say this is why the custom was dropped in some areas. But as time went along it became more and more time-honored for certain populations. Growth in population numbers combined with changes in how individuals were treated created an environment where giving sussie’s started to become quite common again. This boosted the growth of the practice around the world.
In some areas, the custom of sussie’s became a time-honored part of Christmas celebrations. The children began to like their sussie’s and would look forward to receiving them. Today it is quite common for children to receive presents on Christmas morning even if there is no visible Santa Claus present. Decorative card stock paper bags have become associated with Santa Claus as gifts, but they’re less common in America than in Germany or other countries that still have the tradition.
In America, there has been a shift from using sussie’s to give presents to kids over age 3 or 4 (where they may be considered too old) to giving them even earlier. This can be traced back to the 1700s and 1800s when the earliest sussie’s were actually baskets of goodies and toys. There was a shift from this to replacing gifts for children under 12 with toys for children under age 4 when it became common for them to receive Christmas presents. This practice has taken on a new force in recent years as more people recognize that babies and toddlers are developing at an early age and are starting to learn about things like sharing.
Generally, the first thing you should know about Sussie gifts is that they are not actually gifts. This is because, though called a “gift,” the receiver of the present does not have to return anything in exchange for it. Rather, a Sussie gift is given with no expectation of any type of return. It happens to be unique, kind, and meaningful.
Sussie gift is not a present for the person you are visiting or are about to visit. Sussie gift is an expression of gratitude for someone’s assistance, support, or friendship. It may be given to a family member, employer, church leader, or other acquaintance or relationship that has helped you in some way.
At the most basic level, a Sussie gift requires that the receiver has done something for you that demonstrates good character and at least shows some minimal value to you. The gift will normally be in recognition of something he/she did that relates to your life.