I believe people mean well enough, when it comes to gift-giving that is. However, it is ritual in America, especially around Christmas time. No longer is gift-giving a nice gesture. Instead, the tradition has become an obligation during this season of the year. It seems to me this shift in the essence of gift-giving has possibly changed the reasoning behind the act. The question is thus raised, “Why do you give gifts?”
Following is a list of the reasons, at least in my experience, why people give gifts during the Christmas season. While the list is not exhaustive, the reasons are thus:
- Reciprocity – Chalk this one up to guilt. Someone got you something real nice, and now you feel a need to return the favor. It may have been an early surprise you found on your desk at work a week before Christmas. “Oh thank you!” you will say. Followed by, “Your’s is on its way, I just haven’t got them all wrapped yet. I’m such a procrastinator!” This person, of course, was not on your list to start with but has now found a prominent spot.
- Preemptive strike – Akin to the above reason, the preemptive strike is the reverse. The desire is to suck up to someone from which you would like to later receive a benefit. This is the tried and true “apple on the teacher’s desk” bit and is often used with bosses and or other people from whom you may be able to glean something in the future. You are the person in the first scenario who left the gift on the desk a week before Christmas.
- To impress someone – While this is similar to the preemptive strike, there are certain nuances that make this reason for gift-giving a different category. The real reason behind this gift is not to receive a tangible benefit in return. Instead, it is designed to change the recipient’s opinion of the giver. Most often, this seems to take shape in one of two forms. First is the desire to flaunt one’s wealth. This is also known as buying one’s friends.A lesser talked about use of this tactic is found in high schools and on college campuses everywhere. Most often used on Valentine’s Day (however not unheard of at Christmas), this tactic is used to woo someone of the opposite sex. You may have met her in the book stacks of the library, or perhaps she sits two rows over in one of your classes. Nonetheless, she is the most beautiful creature you have ever seen, and, knowing your own limitations in the looks department, you feel the need to even the odds somehow. Unfortunately for you, a box of chocolates rarely does the trick.
- Unloading – Most of us have too much stuff and, honestly, most of it is junk. Closets across America are full of old knick-knacks that have not seen daylight in years. While rarely used at Christmas, this is still a common reason for gift-giving. If you do not want it, odds are, neither does the person on which you plan to unload it.
- Re-gifting – Unlike the above reason, re-gifting is most often practiced at Christmas. It is that time of year when most everyone around you is receiving gifts. This year, someone will inevitably give you a gift that is akin to the plague. You do not want it, and instead of trashing it, you assign it a far more sinister purpose. You spread the disease. You plan to burden someone else with it, effectively killing two birds with one stone. You have ridden yourself of said gift, and marked one more person off the shopping list. Therefore, it winds up rewrapped. You make sure not to open the actual packaging, so as to give the impression you purchased it for the unlucky victim of this transaction.
- Hints through gifting – Gifts given for this reason turn the ritual into a platform for communicating an idea. A case example is buying your wife a workout video for Christmas. Or, in the reverse, buying your man some Rogaine. Often used in order to lesson the sting of an unpleasant statement, this usually winds up backfiring.
- Shadow gifting - The most diabolical of all gift-giving reasons, this one can only be pulled off in very specific circumstances. First, the recipient has to be of close relation to you. For instance, this can be used with a spouse, sibling, parent, or possibly your own child. However, outside of that circle it is a challenge to use. The scenario goes as follows: The giver really wants a new gadget of some form, perhaps a particular piece of technology or a new appliance for the household. Instead of using their money to purchase the item for themselves, they take a much lower road. They buy it for another member of the family, in essence, putting it in close enough association with themselves to use it whenever they would like. Many wives have been bought fishing poles for this exact reason.
After examining personal reasons for gift-giving, perhaps it would be helpful to examine the reason why gift-giving is part of our Christmas celebration.
Many claim the origins of the Christmas holiday season predate Christianity, finding its roots in pagan ceremony and celebration. Examples cited to back this theory are plethora and include symbols like Christmas trees, many of our decorations, and even gift-giving itself.
Truthfully, they may be right. Much of what we do on this holiday may have found its roots in winter festivals and celebrations to pagan deities. Nevertheless, the only reason I mention this is to say that I do not really care if its earliest origins paid homage to a myth of the Roman pantheon. When the true king of the world was born, those who worshipped him chose a day to celebrate. At the advent of Jesus Christ, Romans may have given gifts in the name of Saturn. However, with the establishment of Christmas, an old tradition was given an entirely new meaning. Like every other aspect of life, an empty, fallen invention of man was given true meaning by the birth of a savior.
Christmas is a holiday reborn. It was given a new life.
Whatever the initial reasons for giving gifts on this day, we do it now in remembrance of a gift given. Yet, this precious gift was not given to impress or flaunt the wealth of the one who gave it, despite his matchless riches. It was by no means given in reciprocity as to ones who deserved it. It certainly was not given because it had no value to the giver. To the contrary, it was his only begotten. Our Heavenly Father gave mankind a gift it did not deserve and paid a price far higher than any we could pay.
Furthermore, in love of the Father, Christ gave the gift of sacrifice so that creation could be reconciled to the creator. He, being in the very form of God, did not account this equality a thing to be grasped. No, he humbled himself. Christ sacrificed his position on high, and he became man. He became a servant, an obedient servant to the point of death. He died my death and your death, so that we might live a new life.
On Christmas, we celebrate a holiday reborn. And on Christmas, we celebrate the fact that man can be too.
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