It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
– Dr. Seuss, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Each year there is always a flurry of activity as people prepare to exchange gifts for the big holiday. While many embrace this season of giving, others find the whole process quite stressful. I think this stress stems in large part to the whole commercialization of Christmas. In reality, the art of gift giving has been lost.
Gift giving used to be centered around creativity and kindness. Years ago, people would really think about the person they were buying a gift for, and what they would appreciate. Nowadays, instead of going through that creative process there is the inevitable phone call, or more likely an email, asking ‘What do you want for Christmas’. For me, this request comes as a double whammy since my birthday falls just one week before the big day. I always feel awkward responding to this request. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything inappropriate about telling someone what you’d like to have. I just don’t think that is the same thing as gift giving. Handing someone a list of desired items, complete with internet links on where they can purchase them, is a bit like handing someone a shopping list and saying ‘Here, would you please go buy these for me?’ The whole concept strikes me as rather strange, and a far cry from the true spirit of gift giving. I have tried for years to resist this trend, but I haven’t been very successful. I either upset someone by hesitating in providing them with a list, or upset someone else by not requesting a list from them. When did things get so complicated?
When all is said and done, I have had to succumb somewhat to this new way of gift giving. But I have not completely given up on doing things the old fashioned way. I still take the time wrap each gift creatively, in an effort to add a personal touch to the gifts I give. All of those pretty papers, boxes and ribbons that the Whos down in Whoville did not find necessary are the one part of gift giving that still feels old fashioned to me, and I am grateful for the tradition.