Giving the perfect gift is a talent. It requires months of listening, paying attention to fine details and if you’re lucky finding the right deal to go along with it. However, the secret to gift giving is not synonymous with finding the Holy Grail. It can be taught to virtually anyone with a heart, some time and a little effort. So, if you find yourself in a state of distress, surrounded by crazy shoppers, and nowhere to turn, consider the following advice and you’ll never have to experience the madness again.
Deciding on whom to give gifts to is not as easy as some may think. Romance, politics, debt, obligation, peer pressure and pride are a few reasons why people exchange gifts with one another. Neither the law nor the Bible states that everyone you know must receive a Christmas present from you. For some, an expressive card or even just a phone call can have more meaning than a half-hearted gift found at the corner pharmacy. Making an intimate list of whom to buy for as opposed to constantly piling on an arbitrary group of names solely out of obligation can not only save you time, but force you to reflect on why you desire to give gifts unnecessarily or without good reason. Conducting this activity also gives you more time to focus on giving more meaningfully and without regret or expectation. What’s important is that when you give gifts purposefully, you’re more likely to give for the right reasons.
In order to find the right gift for someone, the most important thing is to pay attention. Why give someone a gift that they’re going to give away the following year, or worse, “put it away,” meaning, to no longer be seen by any human being ever again. Asking someone directly what they want is just boring and kind of kills the spirit of it all. The only way to know what someone truly wants for Christmas is to pay serious attention to how they live and what they love. Overhearing a phone conversation, listening to their inherent needs or being aware of an interest in which they need to collect proper materials are all very easy ways to find out how to surprise someone on Christmas Day. The idea is to put in effort without seeming obvious. Taking the time to find an endearing and special gift can give someone a lifetime of Christmas memories. Another major rule in giving is that a gift must never look cheap or as though you got it on the bargain table at the biggest bargain store in town. When I was younger my six siblings and I used to do the Secret Santa game in which you secretly exchange names and therefore only have to shop for one person (gifts for our parents were always homemade). My parents would give us five dollars each and take us to this big discount store so that we could “explore our options” and find the perfect five-dollar gift. Well every year, my brother, who shall remain cheap and nameless, used to pocket the money and give us his old Hardy Boy books, nicely labelled with his name on the inside cover and pawn it off as a well thought out gift. Although we all knew he lacked humility and the embarrassment gene we still got mad year after year. Thankfully today, he is one of the most generous individuals I have ever met. I guess all that Navy Seal training paid off! Anyway, the point is that cheap gifts are insensitive and pointless. If you can’t afford expensive material gifts, be sentimental and give something from the heart.
As we know, gold, frankincense and myrrh were the first Christmas gifts given. Considered to be the most valuable of the ancient world, that precious metal, oil and perfume had a higher purpose: to honour a child that was to change the course of history. As the gifts were granted in the most altruistic and principled manner, symbolising royalty, divinity and healing, the custom was rooted, manifesting into an affectionate exchange that has continued for thousands of years. Consequently, the gift-giving element of Christmas goes deeper than the way we know it today. While in these modern times we have lost our focus a bit, and that it may seem impossible to replicate the aforementioned example, I think it wouldn’t hurt to rethink our approach to how we give to honour this long and blessed tradition.
Enjoy this Christmas with your loved ones and keep the spirit that this day was meant to bestow.