I love this time of the year. The music, the smells, the lights and decorations. Traditions make me smile. From ice skating at an outdoor rink (which we finally have again, thank you, Paristown) to driving through Lights Under Louisville, I love everything about this season!
Especially one. Gift giving.
Gifting is something I have a great knack for. It brings me joy to stumble on something that reminds me of someone I love and give it to them at a special time of the year, be that an anniversary, birthday, or just a Tuesday. I like hearing them casually mention something they saw or that they like and locking it away in my memory until it’s time for a present, and getting a little nudge from that memory to go and find the perfect thing.
It’s not because I expect anything in return.
I actually have one friend, my best friend, who feels the opposite. Gift giving just isn’t his thing. If he needs it or wants it he buys it without needing or wanting to wait. Since getting gifts doesn’t mean much to him, giving them doesn’t either. In 20 years he’s given me two actual presents. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s given me far more than physical gifts, and those things have meant much more to me than something I could unwrap. So thinking of what to get him for his birthday and Christmas makes me crazy happy every year. And I’ll never stop.
I just love giving gifts.
It’s not my main love language. A long sincere hug is infinitely more valuable to me than anything that could be bought. I just want people to feel special. To know they are seen. They matter. They’re worth the thought and care. Gifts are a way I like to show them.
It’s the motive that matters with gifting. And you can totally tell the motive when you get a gift.
When I shop for my family, I try to focus on things that I know they really need, because they are all so selfless and rarely get things for themselves. That or experiences we can share together. Last year I took my Dad on a date to Star Wars: A New Hope at the Louisville Orchestra. Watching him geek out at all the little Jedi in the audience and awe at the live score was incredible. I could see him flashing back to his teen years camped out waiting for the first release of the film that changed movies forever.
Giving my favorite guy a great memory was the best.
Not all gifting has great motive, though.
There’s those obligatory “I drew your name and have to spend at least $20 because those are the rules” or “I was told it’s rude to leave you out of the gifting” gifts. Those can still be special in some settings, but the mandatory mojo is generally much less exciting than a genuine “I can’t help but give you this” kind of present. It’s super lame when the person who gives the gift could care less about how the person feels when getting it. Bleh.
The one exception to the mundane name draw is the gradual build up Secret Santa. It’s crazy fun. Tiny things are given each day of the week leading up to a holiday party where a slightly bigger present is given if/when you guess who your gifter was all week. There’s nothing better than the cheap thrill of a Diet Coke and pack of Skittles (or whatever your go-to snacks are) showing up on your desk on a Hump Day when you are just trying to get past 2:30PM without passing out on your desk. The kick is sharing in the joy of the random pick-me-ups throughout the week. The motive to help each other enjoy each day just a little more makes the difference.
So, what’s the point of telling you all this? Really it’s just to ask a question.
When you gift this season, why do you do it?
Is it out of obligation? To show off? Keep up appearances? Meet expectations?
Or is it to bring joy?
You don’t have to love gifting the way I do to do it for the right reasons. You don’t even have to spend a penny gifting to make the season special. You can make something. Bake something. Thrift it for less. You can write a heartfelt letter, or create an experience to share.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter WHAT you gift. Just WHY.