With the plethora of birthdays and holidays all happening in December, I’ve been musing on the act of gift giving, in particular the rules I use to guide what and how I give. I’ve been thinking about this (on and off) since reading a post by Anton two years ago about a decision he made with Erin to always give art works as gifts whenever possible.
At first I thought how unpractical that would be for my family, what with our distinct and often capricious tastes. But around that time I started going to Mark Hewitt’s kiln openings more regularly, which left me with a raft of lovely and useful artworks that I couldn’t help but want to share. Thus giving art seemed entirely reasonable, and it offered me a way to drastically simplify the solution set for the problem, “What gift to give ___?” for all my recipients!
So armed with inspiration from Anton and a growing desire to avoid the commercial gift giving orgy of the modern American Christmas, I’ve come up with four categories I find particularly appealing.
- A beautiful object, can be useful, doesn’t have to be.
- Everyone eats, food can be given as gift in so many ways: eating dinner together, going out to a restaurant, drinking, making a meal for someone, providing someone with the raw ingredients.
- Doing something with someone. I’m not sure if food or experience is my favorite, but it doesn’t matter because many gifts satisfy both concurrently. As much as I think it’s ok to value, adore, and love objects, I think for the most part we have too many. And there’s something about a shared experience (though by no means must a gifted experience be shared) which leaves behind a memory that makes all the trinkets and gadgets pale in comparison.
- Things that die
- This category exists solely so I can give flowers. But I think it’s really a cross between the first two categories, as flowers are both aesthetically appealing and temporal in nature (like food). Plus I like the idea of a gift not lasting forever. Other than flowers, I’m not sure what else might fit in this category. Maybe I should just call this category “flowers.”
There are probably other categories, and this doesn’t mean that I don’t wholly enjoy receiving store-bought presents (I do, I do), but I like the idea of challenging myself to work within a tighter set of constraints—maybe just to heighten my experience as a giver more than anything else.