The other day I went shopping with a good friend of mine, Donna, who is a bit older than I am, but young at heart. We did some Christmas shopping together and got into a conversation about the “gift exchange.” She explained that she doesn’t “exchange” gifts with people. I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, so I asked for clarification.
She explained that when she buys a gift for someone it is because she wants to. There doesn’t have to be a reason and she doesn’t expect to get anything back. When I thought about it, I think I’m very similar. I have had people tell me, “Don’t buy me anything this year. I can’t afford to get you a gift,” or “I don’t want to exchange gifts anymore.” I enjoy buying gifts for friends and family. So I ignore those people and continue buying them all gifts. I buy (or make) people I care about gifts because I care about them! And if I want to get you a gift, I will do so.
So why is the “exchange” of gifts such a big deal to people? Why is it necessary for it to be an exchange? I mean, the wise men brought Jesus gifts, but H/he didn’t have stuff for them. He was just a baby for Christ’s sake. Well, I suppose, if you are a believer, (and I’m not saying I’m not, I’m simply acknowledging those of us who are not Christians), then I guess Jesus did die on that cross for us. But in terms of gift giving and the “exchange,” then the gift Jesus gave was worth quite a lot more than gold, frankincense and myrrh. That’s the other thing about the gift “exchange”- people setting limits on the amount to be spent on each other. I’ve never followed that rule either. If I see something that says “you” and it’s above the “set” price limit, I’m buying it for you. Because to me, Christmas is about giving. It’s not about keeping track of who spent more and who gave what. That’s just petty. I give because I look forward to seeing joy on the faces of the people I love when they see the thoughtful thing I found for them. Sometimes it might be something I picked up at the Dollar Store or a Thrift Shop. Other times it could be something I spent my whole paycheque on. WHY DOES PRICE MATTER!!??
Just the word “exchange” has implications. When I used Google to define the word exchange, here’s what came up: the noun- “an act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return;” and the verb- “give something and receive something of the same kind in return.” So the word “exchange” has some pretty negative connotations when you think about it. It is very much a word related to trade and focuses on the importance of an item’s value. It is a word that says “capitalism” all over it. And I don’t think the increasing consumerism of Christmas can be argued.
So as you do your Christmas shopping this year, I ask you to consider- why are you buying gifts for people? Because you expect something of similar value in return or because you want to show your love and appreciation for the recipient of your gift? If it’s the latter, then the dollar amount should not matter. And it should not matter if the person gives you something in return either. I think it comes down to: WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) Do you think H/he kept track? Do you think if someone was in a financial place that they couldn’t give H/him something of “similar value” in return that H/he would just abandon you?
If Christmas is truly about the spirit of giving, then we should all stop keeping track of who spent what and we should stop setting limits. My friend might give me a $50 gift card for Sephora, for example (OMIGOD, I would so love that BTW!) and I might may make her a Happy Jar. Which gift is worth more?
This Christmas, please don’t “exchange” gifts with your loved one. At least, not until after Christmas and that’s only if it’s the wrong size or you don’t like it and you do it at the store. This Christmas, give gifts to the people you love. Give with your heart and show the true spirit of what the season is all about!