Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another Post on Gifts and Giving

It all started with my annual holiday confusion. New traditions, old traditions, blending of Yule and Christmas. Practicality butting up against wistful ideals. Each year I personally crave a simpler holiday season, a homemade, less commercialized gift giving routine and yet I also want to make everyone happy and create a successful holiday for the ones I love, taking into consideration what the holidays mean to them. Each year my thoughts bounce back and forth between the two views inside my head, like an old fashioned Pong game, and each year I end up with a different blending of choices. It's an exhausting process and quite honestly, I'm not sure if my gifting philosophy makes any more sense or is any more realistic or necessary than those of people with different perspectives. I can see a lot of different sides to this.

And this year, the plot seems to thicken.

Already getting started on my own "this year I'll do things right" resolutions, I stumbled upon two posts by Artist Reborne (dated Nov. 4 and Nov. 17) Basically she proposed that the value of the gift was in the process of making it, the value of the gift was to the person making it. I didn't say that quite right, maybe you should just go read it. I liked what she said and I agree, in theory. But I also think that it's important to give a gift that you truly believe the other person would like, not just a gift you want to make for them (although I'm not implying that she said to give someone an old dirty sock!). It's a delicate balance between the two points and I'm not sure where the fulcrum should be set.

I'm not even sure if homemade is the whole point.

I've stumbled upon a few other great blog posts on giving recently which would be a far more salient point here if I'd actually remembered who said what and where, so that I could share it with you. I bring it up only to say that some of these commentaries have had opposing but equally valid points of view. Could it get any more confusing? Well, since you asked, yes, it can.

We also have to factor in the eco issues, and there are two of them. Eco - economics and Eco - ecology. Already I've moved past most of my angst into the pragmatic stage where I just have to make some decisions and act on them. But there's still a lot of things to juggle when making each decision.

I made a homemade gift for my son the other day and realized I needed a secure, sealable container in which to send it to him as it is going to be shipped overseas. Easy enough, I put "holiday tin" on my list of things to buy while I was out shopping for Thanksgiving supplies yesterday. I got to the "holiday tin" line on my list, went to the holiday tin aisle in the Holiday Department at Walmart (yes, an entire aisle of holiday tins!) and stood in front of the bewildering array trying to decide on style and size. And then I realized it was stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. An entire frickin' aisle of tins!!! Thrift stores and garages and top shelves in kitchens and landfills all over this country were filled with empty tins. The world needs NO MORE TINS. Not for years and years and years.

Yes, the new tins in front of me were pretty. I thought about gifts I'd received from others. Did the package it came in matter to me? I certainly enjoyed gifts that looked like they were packaged with love, attention and/or creativity. But it didn't matter to me if that meant a store bought tin or a re-used gift bag or a box wrapped in brown shipping paper with a bit of twine and a few pine cones tied atop or a child's attempt at gift wrap with six extra corners and a half pound of tape.

I didn't buy a tin, at least, not for that gift. I remembered a perfectly good tin I had in my kitchen cabinet. Of course things aren't that easy. I did end up buying a tin. A different tin for a different purpose and a different person but only because I thought it was a perfect gift that would be saved and used for years to come.

I am happy to report however that I also waivered around a half dozen other impulse additions to my gift list and ultimately had the will power to leave them all on the store shelves. I also went back and forth at least five times with different sized and priced choices for a gift that was on my list to buy, alternating between my determination to cut costs and that guilty idea we all carry that more gift means more love. It's really hard. Those extra little $5 or $10 or $20 buys seems like such a small thing (for me, fortunate to have some stretch in the budget), but when I add it all up at the end of the season, all those little buys aren't so little any more and it's a huge stress to pay it all off. I ended up sticking to my original, moderately priced decision. Yah me. I also managed a lot of restraint at the supermarket. Even with the extra cost of food this year, I bought everything I needed for Thanksgiving dinner (note I said needed, not wanted) for HALF what I usually spend!

So, one day's shopping done, only a few weeks more shopping days (and studio days) to struggle with decisions. Like every year, I guess I'll take it one decision at a time.

Maybe what's eating at me with the whole "less is more" confusion, the battle in my brain between wanting the Martha Stewart, bacchanalian, magazine display, perfect overabundance and the..... the... oh, I don't know... the purity of NOT having it, isn't about gift giving at all. It's about something bigger. I stumbled upon this video, and, despite the fact that I don't celebrate a Christian Christmas, I think the video speaks to what's really been bothering me about how we all celebrate the holidays.

It's not about whether we buy gifts or not, whether we make them or buy them, wrap them or offer then zen-like in the palm of our hand. It's whether we do any or all of these things with consciousness and balance.


Blogger susan booth said...

Last Christmas time our Managing Director brought all the staff some vouchers to thank us for the year and as a Christmas treat from need a present.
Now, all the blokes in the office saw the vast amount of gadgets on offer and acted like children who had just walked into a sweetshop, it was very funny to watch them huddle over one computer on the lunch hour picking what they were going to buy!

2:20 AM  
Anonymous alala said...

Yep, balance is key. It can be tremendously difficult to achieve, particularly when you can't get everyone on board - in-laws can be troublesome creatures around Christmas. Thanks for the video, that made some really good points.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

WEll...I am right there with you and this struggle...every year....

I go round and round, there is nothing ANY of us need, I love and hate this time of year.

I really love that little video, even though the specifics do not match my particular beliefs the overall sentiment is right on.

good luck with the good fight...

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes! That's so pertinent to what's happening in our family this year. I feel very much at peace with myself , by giving my time, my skills, and my support to family members who need it - rather than gifts, gifts, gifts. Circumstances of family illness, pending unemployment made us all take a look at what a crazy world we were living in. nina

7:02 AM  

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