Recently I have had friends who when the holidays arrived seemed to have a change of direction regarding gift giving. In one case it was my worst nightmare. I was asked the question “what did I want for Christmas?”. It is not a gift when I am asked to order an item from my friends and then they pay for it. I am not sure what to label it but I have a very strong negative reaction to this type of gift giving from friends on “occasions” so I thought to explore and express more of why it is so important to me.
I believe that gifts arise because we are thinking about how to share and express something important to one another. When I choose a gift it is both something I believe the other wants or needs as well as something I want to give. It is a bond of love passed between us. It cannot and should not be an obligation. When it is wrapped around traditional gift giving events it does not feel the same. I only want my gifts wrapped in love.
When I set out to get married I thought about what ring I wanted to give. I had it made, it has great significance to me, it incorporated my husbands desires and I had engraved with something meaningful. We exchanged them in a meaningful and private way for the two of us. It was a special and shared moment and I shall remember it always. I was not nervous. I was not even dressed. It was perfect. I wanted to marry Pedro, it was the first time in my life that I had these feelings and I did not care about a wedding. They are very different things.
Holidays or traditional events which include gifts like birthdays easily become obligations. The tradition of gift giving for Christmas is mostly due to the Christian belief of the three wise men bearing gifts although even this is probably an overlay of the Yule festivals which predates Christianity and required guests to bring three days of food to the Yule for celebration (started and the 22nd and then the pagan new year started on December 25th which is why we have Christmas on this day now because the Christians experienced a great deal of resistance to conversion from the pagans). Many times I hear people complaining or feeling rushed near Christmas to get presents for friends and family. Is this what love looks like? I cannot think of why we would do this to our loved ones. It is a contract of obligation. It is not a good way to create a life we love to live and I have never met anyone that thought the path to happiness was through obligation.
On the other hand when the thought strikes us, it is fun. When we are just wandering through our life’s experiences and discover that perfect gift for someone then it is fun to get it and give it. I am all for gift giving. I just want to make sure it honours our choices. Often buying gifts for holiday events does not. Here is a perfect example. I have a friend who has phoned me every year for a couple of years after my birthday. She apologizes for missing it and tells me she wants to take me for dinner. Over the past three years she has then proceeded to cancel the dinner mutiple times and in fact has not taken me for dinner for years now but each year the saga repeats. Here is an even better one. A friend phoned me promised me a gift and then never delivered it. What was I supposed to do, remind him? The whole event leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I do not want obligations from people. I want celebrations.
Now of course there are those who will be happy to obligate themselves because it solves the issue of choice and makes it easier to know when to give. Also there are many forces in society which want to obligate us (the economy around Christmas in a capitalist, christian society for example) but that does not make it right, it simply makes it common and understandable (from their perspective). We need to make conscious choices. Now there are some people whom I have met that genuinely enjoy giving gifts and never do so with expectation of something in return, however they are sadly in the minority. Most people seem to need to keep score. So I make the game easier. 0-0 is always the score if no one is ever obligated. It is no different than when I had someone over for dinner. I did not need or expect a return invitation. It is not required. It was an invitation without expectation.
So this Christmas I will give the gifts I want, when I want, how I want, to whom I want and only if I want. I will celebrate the season but not be obligated by it. I will give freely of best wishes and hold my tongue from giving dishes (meaning slurs or negative comments on others). In this way I am truly blessing all my friends and family. In this way I shall surely build a life I love to live.