On Gift Giving

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.

Art
A beautiful object, can be useful, doesn’t have to be.
Food
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.
Experience
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.

Christmas tree lights
Abstract Christmas tree lights, by Katie

2 Comments

You can give me a gift any day! I like your style. BTW, the post I made for you was dedicated because it featured the naughty stuff of days of yore. It is I, not you, who should not think too deeply about my dream.

Excellent, Justin. You’ve just inspired me to get to the florist and buy some flowers for Erin.

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