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.

On Changing Traditions

December 7, 2014


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Not for its historical significance, but because I enjoy the tradition of cooking and feasting with friends and family, no strings (gifts) attached.

As time has passed, the routines surrounding this tradition have changed in subtle ways, reflecting the shifts that have occurred in daily life. I feel these changes most acutely this holiday season as the last of my living grandparents, the matriarch of my family, passed away last week, and as the baby girl in my belly makes grandparents of my parents. Nothing stays the same forever, but routines usually linger around long enough for us to feel nostalgic about them, and to bring them back into our lives somehow in an effort to remain connected to the important events and people of our past. Thanksgiving won't be the same next year for me or my family, but it will be reminiscent of and in remembrance of.