The Christmas season is upon us, and while there’s so much to enjoy about this month, it took only one short shopping trip yesterday (among the throngs of other shoppers) to be reminded of everything that makes me excited for this month to be over. Everything surrounding Christmas gift-giving has always made me uncomfortable. At one time, caught in the clash of religious reflection and retailers’ celebration, I would have said, “To hell with Christmas gifts altogether!” I have since come around to re-appreciate gift-giving, but our way of giving gifts is still a big topic of discussion at this time of year.
As with any tradition, the giving of gifts at Christmas can begin to lose its meaning and become merely an exchange of stuff. When it loses its magic it leaves both the giver and receiver wanting.
I think it could serve us well to reconsider why and how we give gifts. Here are couple of quotes about gifts that have had me thinking recently.
“A gift costs the giver something real. It might be cash (enough that we feel the pinch) but more likely it involves a sacrifice or a risk or an emotional exposure. A true gift is a heartfelt connection, something that changes both the giver and the recipient.” – Seth Godin
When we resort to the mere exchange of stuff, there is no sacrifice (I give a $20 item, I receive a $20 item). But more important, I think, is the loss of a “heartfelt connection”, or the emotional gift. That’s a lot more difficult, but it’s what give gifts their significance. When you give someone a spontaneous gift throughout the year it often has more meaning because its thoughtful and heartfelt. It creates a connection. Giving gifts at Christmas can be a perfect opportunity to create those heartfelt connections, unless we resort to simply giving out of obligation or expectation.
“The only gift is a portion of thyself.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
While we often feel like we pay “an arm and a leg” for gifts at Christmas time, it’s easy to overlook the giving of ourselves as we give. The stuff, the wish lists, how much we spend, all that is beside the point. It’s in how we do our giving. What matters is investing yourself in the gifts you give, whether that’s in a thoughtful purchase, a handmade gift, or simply by what you write in the card.
So good luck as you battle the shopping masses this month, and may we give good gifts to the ones we love, gifts that change both us and the recipient.