Giving someone gifts, whether it happens to be for a special occasion like a holiday or a birthday, or at a random time for no particular event, is a show of affection and also a show of materialism. Why are these two linked? Why is it necessary to give a thing to someone?
Why do we give gifts?
Related questions: Why do we like to receive gifts? What are our responsibilities to others? Why do we feel the need to belong? How can we maintain wonder?
5 thoughts on “Why Do We Give Gifts?”
During the weeks that precede Christmas my spouse, Rebecca, busily bakes numerous mini loaves of strawberry bread, each wrapped in foil and adorned with a ribbon to look like a special package. We give them to family, friends, neighbors, yoga teachers, and co-workers to show we appreciate them and/or hope to get to know them better. Each loaf is a small gift, but combined with the hours of effort she puts in, demonstrate that we have a lot of people to be thankful for in our lives.
A couple years ago, as I was getting to know people or rekindle friendships from the past — at my new job, through my blogging, or in deep conversations with Facebook friends — I made “Garden Gratitude” cards. Crafted with specialty paper and affixed with one of my favorite pictures from my garden, in each I wrote an individualized note about why I was thankful for someone (e.g. appreciation for a story they shared with me, how they inspired me to be a better gardener, etc.). Most were snail mailed to add a special touch. The labor of writing an individualized note, again, demonstrated care for each, and also that I had a lot of people in my life to be grateful for.
Giving gifts like these are meaningful, I think, no matter if given as part of a custom or at a random time. The thought and care put into each far out-weighs the material aspect.
Michael, I agree. As my Mom always said, “It’s the thought that counts.” (In response to one of us turning up our nose at a gift.) Seems like the older I get, the wiser she becomes.
We give gifts to those we love and appreciate because we want display our affection and for them to be happy. We give gifts to those we don’t even know, through donations of time, food and funds, because we want others to have their needs met.
Sometimes, we get a show of appreciation back in the form of a ‘thank you’, ‘I love it’, ‘how kind’. Sometimes, we are the only ones who know that we’ve given anything. We still give regardless. That is because we get as much out of giving than those do out of receiving. Giving builds us up, makes us happy. We derive satisfaction from doing good and we appease our consciences.
Giving is both selfless and selfish. That is what makes it so great.
Side note – I still have the garden gratitude card you sent me, Michael. It sits on a shelf in my hutch where I see it every morning. I reread it, when I’m feeling low, and it makes me feel appreciated. Thank you!
I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, Cecily!
I used to give gifts because I felt obligated to, but I give gifts now to people whom I value. It makes me feel good to do something for someone I care about, and that’s why I do it.
Because my semester ended so late this year — December 20 was the last day of class and December 22 was the day final grades were due — I have had zero time to do much of anything for Christmas. Tonight and tomorrow belong to me and my boyfriend together, and that will be lovely. After that, I’ll start all the Christmasing I can.
I used to worry about sending things late, giving things late for Christmas. I come from a family that hasn’t been very understanding about such things and I know a lot of people who get snarky about getting cards late, but I don’t care. I’ll send things when I can, give things when I can, and I’ll do so with a happy heart.