Holidays and Weddings and Birthdays, Oh My!

Monday 3rd April, 2023

Holidays and weddings and birthdays, oh my! There are so many occasions that warrant gift-giving that my head is spinning just thinking about it. Doesn't it seem like there is always an event happening that requires the onerous skill of picking out just the right gift. The hours I have spent pondering, not just how to select the right object for someone but to do it in a way that will mean something to them while also accurately representing our relationship and my personal flair, led me to wonder; Why? Why do we, smart, sophisticated human beings, spend our fleeting time on the art and act of giving gifts?

Have you ever stopped to think about the origins of gift-giving? I hadn't until recently and what I found was quite interesting. Gift-giving is a time-honored tradition that has been around for centuries. It's a practice that brings joy and happiness to both the giver and the receiver, or at least that's what people like to say, although many might argue that it brings more stress than happiness.

In the beginning, gift-giving wasn't so much about showing love and appreciation for others as it was about showing off one's wealth and status. The ancient Egyptians, for example, would exchange lavish gifts with each other to prove their importance and power. Can you imagine the pressure of trying to one-up your neighbor's gift of a golden statue with a diamond-encrusted mummy case? Yikes!

Moving on to the Greeks, gift-giving took on a more competitive edge. It was a tradition for people to exchange gifts during festivals, but it was also expected that the gifts would be of equal value. Catastrophe could strike your hard earned social status should you make the terrible mistake of giving a gift that was worth less than the one you received. So much for 'it's the thought that counts', am I right?

In medieval Europe, gift-giving became even more complicated. It was customary for lords, who were wealthy, to give gifts to their vassals, who were poor, but the vassals were also expected to give gifts to their lords, life really isn't fair, especially for a medieval vassal. It was a never-ending cycle of gift-giving, and it was crucial to get the gifts just right. Giving a gift that was too expensive or too cheap could result in dire consequences. Imagine being thrown in the dungeon for giving your lord a pair of threadbare socks that you could barely afford, instead of a shiny new sword that you would never be able to afford.

That was a nice stroll down memory lane and, as interesting as it was, it still didn't seem to answer my original question. Why on earth do we do this to ourselves, on purpose no less?! Armed with all of this new information, I decided to do a little pondering. While my musings may not find their way into a history book someday, I think what I came up with sheds some light on why we all willingly submit to this tradition.

Despite all the extra pressure it can bring, gift-giving really is worth the struggle. It's a way to show love, appreciation, and gratitude for the people in our lives. A thoughtful gift can brighten someone's day, bring a smile to their face, and make them feel valued and cherished, reminding them that they are not alone in the world. And let's not forget the joy that comes from receiving a gift. It's a tangible reminder that we are loved and appreciated by those around us and that we do have a community that we belong and matter to.

Isn't it amazing how it's the emotion that is invoked that makes all the time, effort, and resources we invest in giving feel so worthwhile? As social creatures, we have an inherent desire for connection, and gift-giving provides an opportunity to show our appreciation for others and feel appreciated in return. After all, as they say, love makes the world go round, and giving gifts is a fantastic way to express that love. It's abundantly clear that, whether we are good at it or not, gift-giving is a crucial aspect of our lives that we'll likely continue for many generations to come. We're fortunate to live in a time where technology has given us helpful tools such as wish-list apps like Things To Get Me. Also, if we're being completely honest, it allows us to browse (aka stalk) someone's Pinterest page to make finding the perfect gift easier than ever. If you are still feeling overwhelmed with the task, remember, the best gifts come from the heart, a little cliche but true. To wrap things up (see what I did there?) I wish you the best of luck in all your gifting endeavors, especially if you are coming to my birthday party any time soon!

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