Now that we have passed the Thanksgiving hurdle, the holiday season is truly upon us. Naturally, this will mean spending more than we probably should and celebrating more than we typically do; however, echoing the sentiment from every Christmas special on TV, it also means that we become more aware of each other and the human condition, which leads to a large amount of seasonal charitable giving. To give a prime example, last year, Giving Tuesday – the Tuesday after Thanksgiving which promotes charitable giving in the same way that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday promote shopping – raised a total of USD 274 million for charities, which was an increase of approximately USD 100 million from the previous year. Though this is just a well-publicised day in an entire season of giving, the basis of it can be found in today’s word: donation.
Our word, donation, meaning ‘the act of giving a gift’, comes to us from the Old French donacion, which can trace its origins to the Latin words for ‘to give’ (donare) and ‘gift’ (donum). The first recorded usage of the term can be found in Andrew of Wyntoun’s Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland (“Original Chronicle of Scotland”) from around 1425, which speaks of an island in a Scottish loch, poetically saying: “The king..Mad til Saint Serf’s donation Of that Inch.”
From simply meaning the act of giving or bestowing something, the term was next interpreted for the function of ecclesiastical law in the action of giving or bestowing a particular benefice. This is first seen in the 1540 Acts of Parliament during the reign of Henry VIII, which, in An Act that the Town of Roysten is reduced to one new Parish (chapter 44.), states that: “The advowson, donation and presentation of the said vicarage shall appertain..to the king’s highness.”
Within 4 decades of its usage in law, our term had dropped the “giving” aspect and was also used to refer to the gift being given, as is shown in Heinrich Bullinger’s Fiftie godlie and learned sermons (translated in 1577), writing that: “They had a donation given unto each of them as it were a pledge or earnest.”
Lastly, in 1651, found in a translation of John Cowell’s Institutiones Juris Anglicani (The institutes of the lawes of England), where he writes that: “In Lands..A Feoffment is of a Fee simple to the Donee or Feoffee, and a Donation or Gift is of an Estate taile.”, the word was used to define the action or legal contracting of transferring ownership of an item from one party to another.
While there are multiple meanings of the word, if these differing usages of the term donation teach us anything, it should be that, regardless of size, value, or motivation to give, it’s important to remember that every action can made a difference.
Last Christmas, instead of sending presents to its clients, EVS Translations made a donation to DKMS.