On Gift Reciprocation

December 21, 2014

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There have been a few moments this holiday season where I've found myself caught up in the chaos surrounding the 'giftsmas' mentality. It usually hits me out of nowhere, and is triggered by well-meaning folk, such as the cashier at the grocery store or the waitress at the restaurant, asking, "Are y'all close to finishing your holiday shopping yet?" Suddenly I'll feel a pang of guilt because, no, we haven't finished our holiday shopping. In fact, we haven't done any shopping at all, and we don't intend to.

We make pickles, fruit butters and jams for our friends and family every year. Sometimes I'll slip something handmade, like knitted baubles or a plate of treats, inside each gift bag if I'm feeling particularly inspired, but this year we've been so consumed with work, school and preparing for the baby that we haven't had time for anything extra, and it's hard not to feel guilty about that, especially when you're surrounded by folks carrying piles and piles of shopping bags full of shiny new toys and things.

It wasn't until this week that I finally sat down, took a deep breath and thought about my rising feelings of guilt. I have always hated the pressure associated with gift giving. This need for reciprocation, not just in giving a gift for a gift, but in making sure it's of equal or greater value (whatever that means). And there's nothing worse than making someone you care about feel bad because you've shown up with a gift, no matter how simple it is, and they don't have anything to give in return.

It's not something I really know how to overcome. I don't have a game plan for dealing with holiday-associated guilt except to try to breathe through it, and to remind myself that the holidays, for me, are for friends and family, simple moments, cozy atmospheres, long chats and creating things by hand. It's a way to stay connected and sane during the cold, short days of winter when we might otherwise succumb to our more reclusive instincts.

And while I still very much enjoy gifting out our canned goods each year, I can, at least, stop feeling so bad that we don't have more to give. Gifts are not the center of my attention for the holidays - people are. This is why we've chosen to keep our gift giving simple for the past six years. I know this. I guess I just need to remind myself sometimes.

6 comments:

  1. your holidays sound truly wonderful - I love what you said, gifts are not the center of attention - people are.
    Keep breathing, I am right there with you.

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  2. I envy your ability to let go of giftmas, and I admire your ability to make such wonderful gifts. I really think that the worth of the homemade gifts you give at the very least matches, if not exceeds that of the purchased gifts you may receive. I know it's hard not to feel guilty, that's what keeps us from being able to make the switch (that and having no time or energy to actually make things). :D

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  3. I find it difficult to keep coming up with different gifts each year! My plan for next Christmas is to do a bit of both; handmade gifts and things that I have seen that would be perfect for certain people. Planning to learn how to make candles, body scrubs and sloe gin this year ;)

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  4. That's so true! December always seems to be super busy and the pressure to find and buy the 'right' gifts just takes a lot of enjoyment out of the holidays for me. I usually just give small things like a book but feel bad when I am given much more expensive things. Some friends of mine have adopted a 'no-gift' policy in their families, donating to charity instead, which I think is a great idea.

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  5. Ah! "Giftmas" perfectly sums up all that I have grown to dread about this season - what a perfect word. We always promise ourselves "less, less" at the start of the year but can't quite pare the Giftmas ritual into a comfortable size for us. I love your practice of giving cheerful edibles!

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  6. I struggle with this guilt a lot. Thank-you for sharing, I appreciate the chance to reflect.

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