I confess – neither my husband nor I are “gift people”. Gifts aren’t our love language. The last proper present we bought for each other was probably when we were still dating. That was more than 10 years ago. We can’t even remember what it was.
These days, when we spot something that we like but would hesitate to buy if no compelling reason, we ask the other person to purchase it as our present for the next upcoming occasion – be it our birthday, anniversary or Christmas. And, of course, we don’t wait till the occasion arrives to give it. The item is paid for over the counter and then presented immediately. So in June, I’d be paying for a nice pair of expensive dress shoes for my husband, and go, “Here’s your present. Merry Christmas, Honey!”
This year, with our son now 4, it dawned on us that we’d better do a proper job of gift-giving and buy proper Christmas presents – not just for him, but for each other; and on his behalf as well for Mom and for Dad. My son was elated to give Dad a couple of his favourite type of pens (it’s supposed to be a surprise but Dad already knows what it is – shush!) and a bottle of Eau de Toilette (coz he liberally uses Dad’s and it’s depleting – Dad needs more so he can share it with Son!). He took great care wrapping it – or rather, getting Mom to do so – and decorating it, which ended up with me having to roll up lots and lots of tangled ribbon.
Much as we aren’t “gift people”, we understand and appreciate the importance of gifts, which is something we wish to inculcate in our child.
1. Everyone loves gifts
Of course, it helps if the gift is something that you really like or need. Okay, perhaps not the latter. We did an informal survey in our office just the other day at our Staff Christmas Party. It was to poll the best and the worst gifts you could receive from your spouse. My colleague happily ranked a computer mouse as the worst possible gift, only to return home that night to discover that her husband had bought her for Christmas – you guessed it! – a wireless mouse. He was certain it was something she needed as she often borrowed his to work on her computer at home.
2. It’s the thought that counts
There are many thoughts that revolve around gifts, ranging from “What can I get Gary that would make him really happy?” to “What will they think of me if I show up without a gift?” Gifts can be powerful symbolic instruments. If your gift looks cheap, you may give the impression that you don’t like the person very much; if it looks expensive, you may signal that you have lots of disposable income and gifts are trivial to you because you could buy what you want yourself. Either way, it may not serve you well.
A colleague received a special handmade gift from her secret “Santa”, who had taken great pains to print and cut out strips of coloured paper with conversation starter questions to be used with her spouse. It was lovely and full of the personal touch. But have you ever received a thoughtful gift which you just wanted to throw out with the opened wrapper because it was too hideous (and I’m not talking about your toddler’s cute art and craft)?
3. The Giver is as important as the gift
At the end of the day, much as we don’t want to judge and are taught from young to express gratitude for any gift received, a gift is really a reflection of the giver’s personality, attitudes and motivations.
This being Christmas, what the gift of the Christ child tells us about God the Giver just blows my mind. I’ve been telling my son that God so loved me that he gave me an only son. But as a parent, I cannot imagine ever giving my son away – especially when it isn’t a dire financial necessity or in order that he can have a better future. Such is the magnitude of God’s love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son.” John 3:16
Share with me your best and worst gift received this Christmas. And don’t worry, you don’t have to indicate who it’s from!