When I was growing up, gifts were few and far between. This probably contributed to their high appreciation index rating. We loved looking at them for a while before actually taking them out of the box and trying them out. We built stories and even myths about their future role in our lives. In sum, we absolutely cherished them.
But with the material deluge we as society have experienced in recent decades, the value of gifts has somehow depreciated. How can they ever be special if we can afford to buy the very same things during the whole year, by whim or necessity? We have more things, we obtain them according to no specific season, we get them ourselves. So in this context, how do you make a gift special at all?
Here are the choices for gift-givers to make their gift stands out as special, cherished and one that affirms the relationship between giver and recipient. And is also easy on the environment.
By making it expensive, a gift will stand out. Not just among other gifts, but among all the things purchased or received during the year. However, this is probably also a way to justify the commercial frenzy going on during this time of the year. It also helps whittle down the pool of gift givers for each person. People could probably afford to give their closest family member something, but not to their godchildren, neighbors or cousins, for example. So in a way it will restrict the emotional network that gifts create.
Some people pick a practical gift, with the hope that it gets used every day and so reminds the recipient of their relationship. This is the reason by which some gift givers resort to calendars, magazine subscriptions and year-long supply of pantyhose. While this may save the environment from unnecessary purchases, it also has the drawback of not being really special. Except for magazine subscriptions, that is, but I am partial to that.
Or, you can go for the unpractical and keepsake, so that it just radiates beauty and warms up the recipient’s heart forever. I have to confess that it’s my favorite kind of gift. However, such keepsake gifts – especially when coming from many people and over many years – really tend to fill up the recipient’s living space, even if small. You need walls to hang the art, boxes for the sweet souvenirs, and lots of muscle when you need to move house.
Most people would tell you that the best gift is something the recipients likes very much, something desired and dreamed of. True. This kind of gift could really affirm the mutual acknowledgement between giver and recipient. But actually a gift the recipient does not necessarily know about or even especially enjoy may be equally great. It could be the spur to turn the recipient’s life in a different direction. It could be the license to use something freely, without taking on the responsibility of picking it for ourselves.
I personally have had gifts that have expanded my horizons just by the power of owning them, living with them and subsequently using them. Gifts that have changed my tastes, opinions, outlook on life. It’s the maximum manifestation of a relationship, in which our close friends have that special access to shape our lives through their gifts.
Of course, you also have the choice for a gift given in the name of someone (giving to someone less fortunate as a gift to a family member, for example, that say you care), the gift of an experience (gift certificate for a class, a trip together, etc). But although wonderful things to do, they cannot be perfect gifts because they are not really objects. See, there is something special in a material object that even the most transforming experience can never have. It’s permanent evidence for something bigger. It’s a memory peg. It’s a sign that remains.
My personal solution to create specialness in a gift is to give something made by hand, by the gift giver. This way it’s very personal, it affirms an existing relationship through other means, it won’t be expensive but will stand out, it may be useful AND beautiful, it won’t take up resources or space. My favorite kind of gift.
Problem is, we rarely know how to make things by hand these days.