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Gifting Game

December 28, 2013

One of these things I find about the so-called “Christmas season” is this almost irrational clamor over giving gifts. You have the commercialism that’s crept into things and the greed that comes from there. The Christmas shopping season starts earlier and earlier. After all, the majority of the sales of all retail businesses occur in December. Then there are these “holidays” like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Pushing all of these things. And, by and large, we buy into it. People crush each other running after things in the stores. People camp out waiting for the stores to open in the hope that they get a thing they lust after in the ads. More to fill the house, yet nothing is ever satisfied.

I’m not going to pretend that Christ Mass ever had anything to do with Christ to begin with, but the one thing it has done that’s praise-worthy is that it softens the hearts of people in the name of giving these gifts. Once upon a time, these gifts had a certain meaning. But do these gifts have any meaning today? We go after these “gifts” for ourselves we’ve been pining for all year, and then get puzzled on what specifically to get others. It’s even awkward to know what to do sometimes. Cards? Gifts? What?

Unfortunately, with this society that’s decreased personal contact, relationship, and (face it) community, it’s been made impossible to know what would be meaningful and heart-felt to another. So it turns into an occasion to make yourself look good, getting whatever you would like in your own mind, not knowing what they would like or need. What they would like or need might be cheaper, even, but (*gasp*) it might require actual time and involvement! Or the eternal cop-out, gift cards or cash. There’s nothing more telling of a lack of community when a whole group exchanges cash or gift cards. Or nothing at all. For example, the two people that I saw exchange gift cards for Amazon. So what was really accomplished?

Then there’s one more season: Gift-Return Day, where all the attempts at “thoughtful” gifts are returned for the cash anyway. Yet another crush in the store, which gets very interesting to compare to church attendance when Sunday happens to fall on the 26th. Then there’s the crushing results on the checkbook and credit cards after the fact which will take many more days to address, but back to it again the next year. After all, our community is tied up in our things now and not people. What’s true connections with family, friends, and the greater community when you can have a house full of stuff anyway?

  1. I’m in the camp that “Cash” is the most well-thought out Gift, unless you can find something you know has meaning or utility to the person. But, then, I also make that clear to people and would include a letter actually addressed to the person. So there’s still a good chunk of actual thought & care put into the gift.

  2. It’s all just opinion, of course, but I’ve always thought “Cash” to be the most well-thought out when all other answers aren’t there. It’s kind of like saying “I really don’t know what I should get you specifically, but I’m going to spare you getting it wrong and get you “Cash” instead. That, perhaps, is the best course when you really don’t know someone well enough in that regard.

    That said, I’m not begrudging any gifts of “Cash” that I’ve received, as it’s all a blessing. Or the major sales discounts (I ended up with a rather nice personal Christmas present as a result). But as with many things, it’s one area of daily life that I’ve gotten pretty frustrated with, namely because of all the materialism and greed wrapped up on it, along with how it reveals the lack of true community that was a hallmark of life a long time before.

  3. Gifts. A problem for many years for me.

    I used to be one of those who tried to make myself look good. It never even occurred to me to think through what would bless the other person. And talk about anxiety! I had to go to extreme measures to overcome this problem. I announced to all that I was no longer celebrating Christmas in any way. Including gifts.

    This continued for five years until, just this year, I finally figured it out. I gave cash to those who truly needed it. I picked out thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for those closest to me. And I stayed peaceful.

  4. Some of it always comes down to personality, where your values are and the relative financial positions of the parties. But a lot of it comes down to one of the sticky problems of Economics, something not talked about enough: what practical value is added by “stuff”?

    The basics are the basics, which is why countries, when they gain a certain form of stability make economic Leaps. But those Leaps have end points, normally by crashing into them. Aside from lacking efficiency in the economies when they hit the inflection points, the main issue is “what has changed in the lives of the people?”. As an American, you can look at any “normal” home now and compared to 1980, what is actually “new” technology (“game-changers” as they love to say) compared to now? The only big ones are Computers & Cellphones, but the efficiencies & utilities aren’t actually game-changers for the Home. (Being pedantic, only a DVD/Blu-Ray player would be truly “new tech” from 1980, but CDs, VCRs & Computers weren’t exactly common then)

    That might seem like an aside, but it goes to the problem of “modern giving” and why it feels so numb and devoid. It’s actually very hard to give a person an item they “need”. There are plenty of “wants”, obviously, but actual “need” is rare. And, when it is there, it’s normally fairly expensive. This makes it hard for the gift-giver to navigate, no matter how willing or desirous they are in their attempts.

    The end result is, truthfully, that the most “valuable” asset to give in a modern economy is of your Time. Which is why I said that, especially when long distance is involved, that Cash + Personal Letter is going to be the “most well-thought Gift”. When available, spending non-imposing Time with a person should, generally, be the first option.

    And, yes, I just made a socio-sexual interaction point with that. There’s a reason that Hypergamy feeds on 1 thing: the attention of an out-of-reach, dominant Male. Even little children know the most valuable commodity, when their food & safety is assured, is the Time of a dominant Adult Male.

    This also puts into context the problem of Men that try to “buy the love” of a Woman. It’s like that strange Aunt that gives you weird gifts that have no meaning, thought or cost to them. Which is the first time I’ve thought of it in that regard, but it makes a lot of sense.

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