I’m really bad at Christmas gifts.
I consistently missed giving gifts to my family because I forgot for a five year stretch. I gave my college girlfriend a bunch of gift cards one year. I gave a different girlfriend some weird toy robot. She opened it (in front of her family) and just stared at it. I think she was hoping that an engagement ring was hidden inside. There wasn’t. All that robot contained was disappointment.
Most of my relationships ended around Christmas.
I guess I don’t understand gifts at Christmas. In my experience, gifts at Christmas fall into one of two categories:
1) The Expected. You are going to buy something for a person that you love. You have no spend “limit” and no idea what they want. You just need to know the person well enough to buy them that thing that makes them react in a way worthy of a viral YouTube video (the good kind). Why? Because they expect the gift – so you better get it right.
This is the worst because you run the risk of buying the gift that causes a bad kind of YouTube reaction. You risk seeing a person you love open your gift only for their face to fall, sad, as they look up and say, “Thanks.” They quietly set aside that knitted pair of mittens, hoping that next year you actually listen to the nuanced hints they drop about wanting tickets to their favorite band.
2) The Exchange. You have a spend “limit,” draw names, and then you buy somebody a gift. This is also the worst. Now you are guessing what somebody else might like in order to surprise them, and you might not even know that person that well. So, you just ask them, “What do you want?” And basically, you spend $50 on a gift they pick out for you. They ask you the same thing and you pick that exact thing out for each other.
You’ve pretty much replaced Amazon Prime with your Uncle Bob, only he is going to present your gift in blaze orange hunting wrapping paper instead of delivering it to your doorstep in a brown box.
I don’t like Christmas gifts, and it isn’t because I am bad at giving them.
I don’t think they really fit the definition of a gift – at least most of the time.
A real gift is given without expectation. It expresses something – gratitude, love, a desire to do something nice – but doesn’t want anything in return.
What means more? Your spouse showing up unexpectedly to your office with a small gift for you or knowing that he has to buy you something for Christmas? Both can be meaningful, but one of those things demonstrates a higher degree of thoughtfulness.
It is hard to have the mentality of the gift outside of standard gift giving times. We can get self absorbed and think about our needs and wants most of the year. We want to receive the gift, but we don’t want to give it.
Or, we want to give the gift but only if it means I get something in return. That isn’t really a gift – it is just trading stuff.
I wonder what a culture of real gift looks like – to just give without expectation? To express love without being asked?
That starts to redefine relationships, marriages, and friendships. People start to feel less used and see the value they inherently possess.
I don’t completely hate Christmas gifts, but I would love to see a culture of generosity and gift grow beyond the holidays. I’m going to start with me; little acts and gifts of love that hopefully can start to make a difference.
Besides, the malls are less crowed in January.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash