As the Christmas holidays near, I find myself thinking about gifting strategies — what’s the right thing to do for both giver and receiver.
I used to pride myself on making or finding that special something that would delight the recipient, without being either too lavish or too stingy. Coming up with just the right personal gift requires an understanding of what each individual finds pleasing, tasteful or appropriate. That requires insight into what they do, what they find beautiful, amusing or useful; what would fit into their home décor, their cooking style, etc. Insights like that require connection and proximity — much harder to develop when you live far away, no longer part of someone’s everyday life.
Joy in Giving
A lot of the gift-giving pleasure disappears when you can’t see people open your gifts or put them to use… Gift giving at a distance becomes a symbolic act, an annual ritual or even an abstraction devoid of pleasure. Just a chore to be done in a rush so there’s time for UPS to deliver the packages in time for the holidays.
This year I’ve decided to bring more pleasure to the act of giving by doing less shopping and more “making,” such as these three scarves that I’ve knitted for friends. (Each scarf is about 12 feet long, with graduated color schemes and a metallic finish to the edges. The color schemes suit my friends’ personal preferences, their willingness to make a bold statement in their fashion sensibility.)
Perhaps it’s my yoga practice but I find that the gift of time, made tangible in handcrafted items that take at least a few days to create, is especially precious…
Joy in Re-gifting
My husband and I have also decided to begin “re-gifting” — passing on items that he has inherited from his family to the next generation. We have a small but precious (memory-filled) set of antiques. Why wait until we downsize (or worse yet, die) before giving these items to family members? We’re now debating what to give to whom, and over what period of time.
While Obama, Wall Street and economists will decry our behavior as insufficiently consumerist — we’re not boosting the economy by giving our money to merchants — this approach is much more satisfying to us as givers. And hopefully to the recipients as well.
Yes, we have purchased some gifts, but mostly from artisans, craftspeople or small business owners where our money means a lot more than if we were spending our dollars at mega-merchants like Amazon. Even though we buy many things from Amazon through the year, making handmade items or sharing family treasures feels much more true to the Christmas spirit.