The tradition of gift giving is one of the many threads that binds the generations throughout the centuries. We give gifts for symbolic reasons, for celebrations, to mark important occasions, to say thank you or simply as an expression of love.
The Bible describes how, following the birth of Jesus, Wise Men from the East brought gifts to worship the new-born King. The careful selection of these rare and valuable items (gold, frankincense and myrrh) denoted the importance of the Christ Child to the magi.
Modern-day gifting is certainly a different story when you consider the historical meaning of the word itself. The Old Norse word ‘gipt’ corresponded with Old English ‘gift’ meaning ‘payment for a wife’. Anyone who has purchased a diamond solitaire for an engagement ring might still agree!
However, the giving of gifts in the 21st Century is a minefield, especially when the world is full of things to buy.
How much should I spend?
Will they like it?
Might they already have one?
Do they even need it?
Wise is the couple celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary who politely tell their guests:
‘No presents, please; just your presence.’
In late August, my thoughts turn to birthdays, as we have a number in our family that fall in September. Increasingly, I ask myself if it’s possible to buy an experience rather than an item.
My philosophy is to buy fun (i.e. an experience), food (consumables) or flowers (a beautiful but affordable luxury). For example, for their birthday last year, my twin godsons enjoyed a day out with their family members (an experience, using leisure vouchers) rather than another toy to add to their collection. Everyone enjoyed it; the family was making memories together.
In a live meet-up held on Saturday via Facebook, Courtney Carver of bemorewithless.com said something that really made me think:
‘The gift happens in the giving and receiving’.
It’s the act of giving itself that we should consider carefully. Maybe that’s why we often hear, ‘it’s the thought that counts.’ Courtney is right. It’s not the gift itself that matters; it’s the intention behind the giving *and* receiving that matters most.
For a minimalist, the other side of the coin is the question of what to do when receiving a gift (especially a decorative item) that doesn’t really fit in your home or which truly doesn’t ‘spark joy’ in the Marie Kondo sense. Again, this is where the act of receiving – and the grace in so doing – is in your hands.
Minimalists take a pragmatic approach to unwanted gifts. The mantra ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ is not for nothing! Some like to keep a gifts box into which unwanted items go. This provides a useful source of raffle prizes or stock for fundraising car-boot sales. Once full, some of us happily take the contents of the gift box to the charity shop where someone else can grab a bargain to help a good cause. There is no shame in doing this; once in your hands, the gift becomes a part of your belongings over whose destiny you have ultimate control.
So, as summer breezes into autumn, think about your gifting strategy. Think about it now, before the summer holidays become ‘Happy Holidays’.
Remember this: it’s the gifts that are made, offered and received with grace and love that mean the most.