Holiday gift-giving is a tradition that dates back for centuries. Giving and receiving gifts is a very integral part of many cultures which often carries deep meaning and symbolism, denotes rites of passage and faith, and ultimately displays the bond of love, whether of kinship or friendship.
In more wealthy cultures such as ours, gift giving has sadly become another victim of materialism. Gift-giving is now more about a show of status and keeping up with the Joneses than of sentimentality, family traditions, or faith. Retailers have exploited this tendency to the extreme, evidenced by the phenomenon known as Black Friday.
Although purchasing an abundance of expensive gifts for our loved ones does not stem from wrong motives, it can lead to a shallow and de-valued gift-giving experience, and a tradition of meaninglessness passed on to your children. Here are some ways to take the materialism out of your holiday gift-giving and display your love with truly meaningful gifts this holiday season.
Choose gifts that carry personal significance. Instead of buying someone a gift that will just add more ‘stuff’ to their life, aim to gift an item that will be especially treasured and hold personal meaning to the individual. Here are some examples:
- An heirloom
- A memory book of your family tree
- Pictures or keepsakes from special moments shared
- Personalized photo frames, clothing or jewelry
These kinds of gifts take a little more thought and time than others, but are well worth it.
Choose gifts that are extremely useful but unique. Gifting someone a vacuum cleaner isn’t always the greatest way to warm a person’s heart, but the idea is to gift items that will continue to be useful for even years after the holiday. Pay attention to each person’s hobbies and unique tastes in order to find something useful to their lifestyle but that they will also enjoy.
Choose gifts that will evoke emotion. Giving someone a light-hearted, fun gift is still meaningful if it brings them joy. Whether it cost you a dime or a dollar, the true value of the gift is in the emotional response it evokes and the relationship it signifies.
Don’t shop from a wish list. Asking someone what they want for Christmas can give you clues about the kinds of things they like, but getting someone exactly what they tell you can be boring and miss the point. Pick something out for them yourself that falls in the guidelines of what they would enjoy, while keeping the element of surprise.
Don’t give ‘lazy’ gifts. Gift cards, gas cards – honestly, does anyone really enjoy getting these? These kinds of gifts usually send the message that you didn’t want to take the time to find something unique for that individual. Granted, some people that have ‘everything’ are hard to buy for, but that just makes the task of finding something special more challenging. You may also find that in the process of finding a unique and meaningful gift for someone you don’t know that well, you get to know (and like them) more.
Remember that gifts don’t have to be animate. As mentioned above, there are some people in our lives that have everything they could need or want. Consider gifting them with your help with a project, a reservation to an event, or a charitable donation of their choice.
Choose quality over quantity. Parents often make the mistake of buying unlimited gifts for their children, especially if they aren’t on a budget. With each additional gift, every other gift loses a little more significance. Choose to be frugal and instill in your children an appreciation for what they are given. You may want to stick to a particular number each year, or select a ‘theme’ for gifts, such as a need, a want, or a keepsake.
Gift-giving is an art that has to be learned. By avoiding the trap of materialism and competitiveness and focusing on gifting personally and meaningfully, you will enjoy a much more financially sound, peaceful, and fulfilling holiday season.