Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The problem with gift giving

So here we are, knee deep in another gift giving season. It's a time of year I love but! Not to dampen anyone's mood or anything, but isn't gift giving an unnecessary burden these days? With every year, friends and family are expecting ever bigger, more expensive gifts.

I remember the times when gifts were things from the heart, carefully, meaningfully and yes, often painstakingly, selected and didn't have to cost an arm and a leg to be appreciated. It's the thought that counts, I used to remind myself, not the price tag. Somehow those times seem to have been rushed out the door along with Christmas in October.

These days, the topmost questions that ring in my head as I join the holiday shopping rush all seem to have the word 'big' in them. Is this gift big enough? Is the price tag big enough? How big is my gift compared to the ones that everyone else is bringing?

Over the years, it's become all the more apparent to me that gift giving is some sort of contest. Whoever brings the biggest, most expensive gifts wins. The popularity polls, that is. And it goes without saying that people like me who are still hanging on to the good old spirit of it's the thought that counts will inadvertently end up at the bottom of said popularity charts. In fact, I may even have lost friends and family for that reason, and that reason alone.

We'd be fooling ourselves if we thought friendships and relationships are what they used to be. I won't generalize and say that all friendships and relationships are built on posh air and dollar signs but seeing all pretty picture-perfect pictures on social media just may have something to do with it. Or could it be our narcissistic nature at play here?

Even among family, there's this unhealthy contest of who bears the biggest, most expensive gifts. When I used to visit family and friends with my grandmother during the festive season, she would package some fruit or other edibles to bring along. I see nothing wrong with that.

As an adult, I decided I would preserve that tradition of fruits and homemade food gifts. But then I quickly realized it wouldn't work in this day and age. Not when other family members visit each other bearing baskets piled high with exotic foods and wine. Being me with my simple gifts from the heart, I stand a real risk of being labeled Scrooge for life.

Can you see why I'm none too excited about the season of gift giving? Because to me, it's not a contest and it certainly is not about the size and price of the gift.