The Lost Art of Gift Giving

I went to a wedding on the weekend. It was a beautiful wedding. Very simple and elegant.

As I arrived, I lugged a huge box from the boot of my car into the foyer of the venue. It was a gift that I had spent hours the previous day trudging up and down the stores at my local shopping centre trying to find. I agonised over many objects until I finally settled on something I thought right for the couple.

I chose a vintage drink dispenser; a large glass jar with a little silver tap that you can place beverages in when entertaining. I thought it would suit as they are a couple with young children. He also dabbles in brewing. In my mind, it was the type of item that you would not normally buy yourself but is nice to have. The type of item that I think is the perfect gift. It is useful to their needs but not so practical that they would have already purchased it themselves (or having two  would not be a problem).

When I got home I agonised over wrapping my gift. Not wanting it to break, I carefully placed it in a cardboard box and taped it up first. I then searched high and low for wrapping paper. Not finding any, I settled on brown paper and neatly wrapped the box. To decorate, I tied white ribbon, lace and a string of beads.

As I entered the foyer I approached the gift table. The invitation had not specified any gifts. There was no registry to follow or requests for cash. Yet when I got to the table (and I was running late so the rest of the gifts were already there) it was starkly obvious that I was the only person that had gone for a traditional gift. There were two or three small boxes on the table and my large box stuck in the middle of the table. To the side of the table was a large glass jar marked “cards”. This was full. Everyone, except for me had given cash.

Now I am not opposed to giving cash necessarily… ok… I am a little. When I say I am not opposed, I mean that I understand that life is expensive. These days most couples live with each other before they get married and have already got a toaster, blender and the rest of the household appliances that they need. What they need is cash.

But it still doesn’t sit well with me. When did gifts suddenly need to be practical? Who decided that you can’t just give frivolous objects that people might simply like?

I have this argument with my mother every Christmas. She has decided to cut back on the amount she spends on my children. Her argument is that they get so much stuff at Christmas time that they really don’t need more. Instead, she has opted to buy a small gift and put the money she saves into a bank account for them for when they are older.

I think the bank account is a nice idea and appreciate what she is trying to do.

What gets up my nose is the fact that Christmas has a value on it. Although I appreciate her actions, I find it unnecessary. Who decided that a certain amount needs to be spent on each person? Why is it that gift giving has become about a dollar value and not about the joy of trying to find something that the receiver might like? Why can’t children get heaps of useless crap at Christmas time? It’s something I just don’t understand.

I feel that we have lost the meaning of gift giving. For me, giving a gift was about the simple act of trying to understand someone else’s likes and choosing or making something that would bring them joy and happiness. I relish in the delight on a child’s face when they open a box a find a toy they haven’t seen before.

When someone opens a card and pulls out a $50 note, says thanks and shoves it in their pocket I feel that we have taken away some of that magic. All this focus on practicality and dollar values seems to have stripped the pleasure of gift giving.

Maybe I am just being old-fashioned or reading too much into it but I love gifts that are outside of my comfort zone. I love when people buy me things that I would never have thought to buy myself. It helps me to be adventurous and experience the world. There are things I have been given that I would never in a million years of thought to buy with my money (or given money).

What are your thoughts? Is this a lost art or do I just need to get with the times?