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Holiday Gift-Giving Dos and Don’ts

“The best gifts come from the heart, not from the store” – Unknown


Gift-giving is a generous activity that people enjoy in the USA and other places to celebrate events such as birthdays and holidays. To Christians, gifts given at Christmas are symbolic of those given to baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men during the nativity. The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn in the manger. This demonstrated their respect and reverence for the Son of God. The act of gift giving predates the birth of Jesus and early cultures, including the Romans and Norse who held winter solstice festivals to include gift giving and sacrifices to pagan gods. Today, gift giving for the holidays is widespread. Many children of Jewish faith receive presents during Hanukkah as a contemporary custom in conjunction with Christmas. Holiday gifts are also typically given to teachers, doormen, hair stylists, and others to acknowledge appreciation of regular services during special times of the year. 

While no printable rules apply to gift giving, some unwritten ones do. Here are three important ones. First, just because you give a gift, don’t expect one in return.  Gift giving is not mandatory. Rather it is a gesture of kindness that comes from the heart. We give not to receive, but to bring others joy. In fact, the origin of the expression ‘It’s better to give than to receive’ is traced to the Biblical word of Jesus when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) The second rule focuses not on the giver, but on the receiver. It also focuses on the gesture, rather than the gift. Remember these words, it’s the thought that counts. So often we get bogged down in what we are given, rather than the person who gave it to us. While we may be disappointed in someone else’s choice of present, the fact that they took time, energy, or funds to give a gift is within itself a gift. It’s especially important to be grateful for what we receive, especially when the gift is homemade or made with the heart. For a child presenting a crayon drawing to a parent, it’s important for adults to be grateful, express pleasure, and share how kind it is to think of others. The third main unwritten rule is to be practical. No one expects you to break the bank to get them a gift. In fact, it is generally ill-advised to overspend. Friends don’t want to see you in debt and hurting. Rather stay on budget and shop local and small businesses when you can. Or skip presents altogether and exchange talents instead. One friend may cook dinner for the other, and the other may offer to pet watch. Having someone fun to spend time with and trust are simple gifts of friendship.

Presents have a way of lifting people up because it shows you care. Money and gift cards are considered gifts, too. Though likely appreciated, they are considered impersonal and don’t require much thought. Plus, gift cards are often easily misplaced or left unused. Thus, it is perhaps more fun to take someone shopping and buy them something special with budget in mind, or gift them a personal experience such as a special day at the zoo, a visit to an exhibit at an art museum, or a trip to the arboretum. Above all, whether you are the gift giver or receiver, being gracious and thinking of others are key elements.

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