We still have plenty of time to “shop” for the perfect gift to give those on our so-called Christmas gift list. Sometimes, if we think about it, we discover that the people on that list are those we might feel obligated to give something to: our children, our grandchildren, our parents (if we’re lucky enough to still have them in our life), our “boss,” our long-time friends, our new friends, our neighbor who has more or less been there for us when we needed their help, and so forth.
And all that’s fine; no one would suggest that if you’re of the gift-buying mindset that you shouldn’t buy some kind of “token of love” for those you care about all year long. But…oh, you say, you don’t really “love” all those people; you might just feel some sense of obligation toward some or maybe even most of those you gift at Christmastime.
Yes, honesty might make us admit that a sense of obligation could well be the main reason we give gifts to certain people — but isn’t that true for many of us, you might also say? And if gift-buying is on our
agenda, who really cares why we buy those gifts, certainly not those who collect the money from the sales.
So what does it matter what reason we have for giving gifts? It’s our own business, isn’t it? And besides, a gift is only a gift, isn’t it? We do what we have to do as well as what we want to do when it comes
to buying gifts. Well, of course, we do what we want to do at Christmas time. Maybe what we do is a bit understated due to our finances, but we still do what we can while doing what we want.
Besides, when it comes right down to it, gift-giving because it is the Christmas season, in honor of the Christ child, is just about as old a tradition as we can get, since the first gifts were brought to Jesus
as he lay in the manger: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Those gifts had very special meanings, spiritual meanings: (gold was a symbol of kingship on earth; frankincense [an incense] was a symbol of deity, and myrrh [an embalming oil] was a symbol of death. These
meanings date back to Origen in Contra Celsum: they believed Jesus was a king, a king who was mortal and also a God, one who would reign as an earthly king, and also die a mortal’s death, and reign as a king in heaven.)
Would that we would give a little thought into the kind of gifts we give those who will be the recipients of our gifts: Do we really match up such things as a book for the hardcore book-reader, some small kitchen appliance or set of kitchen tools for the one who loves to spend time in the kitchen, or even a coffee cup with a theme that goes with the recipient’s interests (golf, humor, motorcycles, etc.)?
It is always kinder to give a small gift that matches the gift-getters interests, than a more expensive gift that holds no particular interest for that gift-getter.
Whether or not we believe that story about the gifts of the magi, we can’t imagine three more suitable gifts for that particular child. We ought to give enough thought to the gifts we give that as the recipients look back upon every Christmas gift they ever got from you that they would be able to say that they were so perfect.
My daughter is that kind of gift-giver. She apparently takes notes all year long whenever I mention something I might want, or notices when there is something I need, and sure enough, those things show up as my Christmas gifts from her. She has never given me something that was not happily received.
As the gift-giving lists get longer, no doubt the thought processes behind the gifts get shorter, but at some point, as we get older, the list probably gets shorter again, allowing more time to think about what we are doing and what we are getting for whom.
I always enjoyed the “fruit” of the gift-giver, meaning something homemade or very particular to the giver. Again, the older we get, the more we can appreciate that jar of homemade jam made from fall’s
harvest or that unique little box for trinkets made out of the shells you both gathered at the beach last summer. No matter how much we may not have liked such things when we were much younger, age gives us a new perspective on gift-giving and gift getting.
Mostly, gift-giving should be a token of love, or esteem, or caring; a token, not a whole story or a gift so big that the person receiving it feels embarrassed or overwhelmed. I always smile when my nephews remind me of the favorite gift they got from me when they were barely teenagers. Since I had five of them and not much money to spend, I always did go in for making their gifts, and the one gift that they still have and still bring up to me on occasion is the painted rocks. They were just ordinary rocks, but each one was different and suited to their taste. I had painted messages on them, all different, and the one that
everyone liked most was, “I’d rather be rocked than stoned!”
Gift-giving can be an art, but mostly it should be an act of caring or kindness or love. And it’s never too early in the year to think about those you love.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.