GIFTS!!! For what?

TV posts will be continued next week!

067. presents

I love giving gifts.  At least, I like to think that I do.  I love shopping for gifts and picking out items that I think so-and-so might like.  I love to make the recipient happy and, at the very least, appreciated.

When I think about it, however, I realise that I don’t actually like the following: 1) trying to figure out what so-and-so might actually like, instead of what I think they might; 2) selecting something within my budget; 3) wrapping the gift; and 4) being unsure of how so-and-so is going to react to the gift.  Furthermore, when it comes to gifts from others, I am terrible at coming up with gift suggestions (at least not right away) for myself.

This time of year sees the Internet – not to mention the good-old-fashioned print media – filled with suggestions for gift-giving, be it proper etiquette, ideas for what to get, or ranting opinion blogs about how the true meaning of Christmas is lost.  There are hundreds of ideas of what to do with your family for Christmas, all of which seem to involve children and/or alcohol.  No one agrees on what constitute “good gifts” or on to whom gifts should be given.  It is positively maddening, particularly when these arguments break out not online, but amid families in person.

Nonetheless, I have decided to add my voice to the debate, if only to spare my loved ones from my ranting.

1.       Trying to figure out what So-and-So might actually like!

There is considerable debate on this topic.  Some say absolutely no novelty gifts, Christmas-themed items, or gift cards.  Others warn to stay away from clothes.  Depending on to whom the gift is for, suggestions can range from “keep it personal” to “a generic token is required for everyone” to “children only”.  It seems that the question of whether or not the recipient will like their gift is asked less and less frequently the larger a family is. I have always maintained that this question is important, but others seem to swear by the “don’t be ungrateful” mantra.

Token gifts should be appreciated, but the very token nature of the gift means that it does not necessarily have to be reciprocated.  If you do not expect a gift in return, tokens such as candy, cookies, small toys for children, novelty items, or gift cards are entirely appropriate for anyone that you wish to give them to.  They are often as much a thank-you gift as they are a “Christmas” gift.

Examples of people to give a token gift to: co-worker, babysitter, teacher, tradesperson who services your house, relative who lives out of town.

Nonetheless, the question of what So-and-so might like is still very important.  If you know anything about them at all, make sure to take this into consideration.  Don’t get chocolate and peanut brittle for all your co-workers if you know that some of them have allergies.  If you know they hate shopping, don’t get them a gift card.  To be honest, if someone says “No gifts,” honour their wishes.  Don’t use the excuse of “they can just re-gift it” or “it’s the thought that counts” unless you only find out about their wishes when you give it to them.

On the other hand, if you know So-and-so fairly well, if they like things that you think are tacky, don’t hesitate to get them a tacky gift.  There is a big difference between “tacky” and “tactless” – the excuse of “it’s the thought that counts” is tactless if you know better.  If your co-worker hates gift cards, giving her one would be tactless.  If she loves silly Christmas mugs, getting her one is not tacky, even if you would never buy it for yourself.

Ultimately, if you want to know what So-and-so wants for Christmas, there is nothing wrong with asking.  If they say “Surprise me,” take them up on it and surprise them.  Be honest that you are clueless on picking up hints.  Next year, both of you will hopefully have come up with some better ideas.

2.       Selecting something within the budget

This takes the most humility.  Admit how much money you can afford to spend on gifts.  Make this clear to any adults that you normally exchange gifts with.  (Within reason, of course – no need to go into details!)  If you exchange with those who have obviously higher or lower incomes, admit this.  If you are competing for who can give the most extravagant gift, you probably should not be exchanging gifts with that person.

As for children, if they are not yours, select something meaningful and fun, and make sure that the value is about equal for each child.  For younger children, of course, size and number are important.  When in doubt, get the same thing for children of similar ages.  Books are a good compromise – you can select one for each child (for that matter, every family member) at the appropriate age level.

The most important thing is that ultimately, how much you spend is meaningless.  The reason behind it is to acknowledge family and friendship connections, thanking those who have done good for us, and commemorating the spirit of Christmas, namely that God gifted himself to us.

Simply put, a baby is not worth very much.  A newborn baby is not even very awe-inspiring when compared to what we still expect a god (or superhero) to do.  Yet, His gift was a human baby, stripped of power or the ability to wield it.

3.       Gift-wrapping

Five words: tissue paper and gift bags!  Tape and ribbon optional.

032.

If you still don’t like wrapping, don’t.  If all the recipient appreciates is the packaging, add more tissue paper, or have the present wrapped for you.

When it comes to packaging, the simpler the better.  God wrapped himself into a tiny baby, nothing else.

4.       So-and-So’s reaction

When it comes to this, know that even God regularly has His gifts rejected or embraced reluctantly!  He Himself was rejected by society – that baby-turned-into-itinerant-preacher was not popular with his own people.  He was the antithesis of what the Messiah was supposed to be, and even still the baby in the manger scene is nothing like our modern superheroes.

If we commemorate Christmas by over-consuming gifts, we commemorate Easter with spring cleaning.  The baby Jesus is cute and even harmless to all but the most diehard anti-Christians.  Many non-Christians have no problem with the holiday, even the carols directly about Christ.  He is a little baby in a manger, accompanied by angels singing about peace on earth.  It is the adult Jesus Christ that is contentious and threatening.  He upset the social order, told off the establishment, told everyone that they were wrong about what they expected Him to be, and he continues to do that to this day.

Don’t be too worried about So-and-so’s reaction.  Try to make them happy, but if you fail, apologise.  Furthermore, in receiving a gift, be thankful for “the thought that counts” and the love and friendship that the gift expresses.  Then, politely tell them that they missed the mark a little.  Yes, you may like gift cards, but not to a store for fishing and hunting goods.  Yes, you may like novelty Christmas mugs, but you are terrified of the type of cartoon animal depicted on the one you received.

If you are still on gift-exchange terms afterward, next year, perhaps you will have a better understanding of each other, and there will be more peace on Earth for you than before.

Merry Christmas!

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