To Give or Not to Give…That Should be the Question

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree…

So goes the song, listing the various gifts that were given during the twelve days of Christmas. And then there is Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby”, which is an ode to the decadent gift-giving culture of Christmas. What is it about this holiday that drives us all to the mall? In 2018, holiday retail spending in the US crossed a trillion dollars! Yes, that’s a trillion dollars – 1 followed by 12 zeroes. The shopping frenzy usually starts immediately after Thanksgiving, with many stores opening early for Black Friday sales. Recent years have seen a backlash against this global commercial trend, with many people signing up for the “No Buy November” challenge. But December is a whole other story, right? 

When it comes to gifts, how many is too many? For many families, Christmas is the one time of the year that they can afford to buy gifts. Is it ok to max out the credit cards for a once-a-year shopping spree? It’s Christmas after all. What if we plan our purchases carefully and pay for everything ahead of time? Do the gifts have to be organic, sustainable, earth-friendly also? What do you mean ethical gift-giving? Can’t a gift simply be an expression of affection, and nothing more? You see how we can argue this from both sides.

Re-thinking the Gifts

Whatever your stance on gift-giving this Christmas, here are a few things to consider:

  • A gift of time – give the gift of your time to the people you love. This is especially true for your family and friends. We lead increasingly busier, multi-tasked, over-scheduled lives. The precious moments of your undivided attention for a child, spouse, parent or sibling are the most memorable gifts you can give. Ask your loved one how they would like to spend a day or an evening with you. And then follow through. Preferably without devices.
  • A gift of effort – make something with your hands, run an errand for a neighbor, cook a meal for a co-worker, volunteer at your favourite charity on a day that’s not Thanksgiving. Whatever you do, don’t overdo it. Don’t do it out of guilt or for the sake of ticking a box. Your efforts, big or small reflect your regard for the recipient of your gift. You don’t have to try really hard to show that you care. In fact, some of the most thoughtful gifts are simple, elegant and show that you were paying attention.
  • A gift of money – some of us buy many small gifts, while others buy a few large gifts. And we buy gifts of different value, depending on who it’s for. This season take the calculation out of the gift-giving equation. First, you don’t HAVE to buy a gift. Second, when you do spend your money, make it count. There are a ton of gift lists that come out at this time of the year. There’s Oprah’s Favourite Things and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop list; there are top gifts for travelers and tech lovers, the bookworms and the fashionistas. It seems like everyone has a gift suggestion. No one can tell you what the best gift for someone is. The most thoughtful gift is chosen with care and demonstrates your knowledge of the person for whom you are buying the gift. A list can’t do that for you!

As we go into another festive season, remember that these holidays are a celebration of your time on this planet, with your family and friends. The most precious gift that you can give to your loved ones is the gift of YOU. Everything else is just stuff.