The Art of Gift Giving


“We do Christmas exceptionally well,” I remarked to my husband and two adult children at the end of this year’s long, leisurely, soul-filling day.

Christmas Day is one of my favorite days of the year, because it’s one day where we are all together, and we take our time with everything. My son usually goes to his best friend’s Mexican Christmas Eve party, where the gift exchanges don’t start until midnight and the party lasts until 3a.m. or later. So he was sleeping in on Christmas Day.

That was great. It gave the rest of us time to move through our usual morning routines. I do my morning pages (three pages of longhand on whatever comes to mind–a great way to get through any unprocessed issues and start the day off receptive to the new). Then I do my meditative readings (mostly Scripture and other inspirational/devotional reading), while using the Halo. Then, breakfast, my Healing Codes/healing prayer method (you’ll be hearing more about that), and my walk. Finally, shower and dress, and I’m all ready for the world.

This morning, Christmas, I also made our traditional Christmas breakfast, blueberry coffeecake. I stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven. We made our way slowly through the hours, eating the coffeecake, preparing more food, hanging out, chatting. Finally, just when the turkey was done, everyone was finally ready to open presents! Oh well. I left the turkey in the oven on warm and we opened our gifts.

We take our time with that, too. Christine was the resident present-passer, and we unwrapped each present, one at a time, taking turns.

This year it struck me that there is an art to gift giving. It is really about honoring the relationship. When I receive a thoughtful gift from someone, what makes me feel loved is that they actually saw who I am, and carefully picked out something they knew I would like. And it cost them something: money, the time to shop.

Let me give you some examples.

My husband, Gene, heard how heartbroken I was over the fact that we lost all our Christmas decorations in a basement flood a couple of years ago. I was especially sad over the loss of our two creches. One of his gifts for me was a creche from a local antique store. There was a whole story behind it: how he thought of going in to ask if they had any, how there were only a few but he talked to a woman who had 50 creches (!) in her home, how she brought in several for him to choose from on Christmas Eve. I called him on his cell phone, wondering where he was. The car was here, so I knew he was on foot somewhere. “If I told you where I am, you’ll know what I got you,” he said. “I’m coming home now.” He had to find a box to put all the pieces in, and then wrap it–no small feat.

I also found out later that he had called my friend to ask her where he could find a particular handbag she had that I liked. I could go on with other things Gene got me. His gifts reflect the fact that he pays attention to my heart, and is willing to do what it takes to delight me. He is a very good gift giver.

So is my son, David. He bought me a smart meter cover, among other things, even though he himself does not believe smart meters pose any danger. He knew I did, and he bought it, glad that I would be happy about it.

My daughter, Christine, heard me say the slippers I had were too big, I was flopping around in them. She got me new ones, and they are the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn on my feet. She also noticed we needed new towels, and bought some of the thickest, softest towels I’ve seen.

I enjoyed giving gifts, too: carefully picking out just the right thing. Sometimes there is a story behind it, or we make a joke out of it. Or the wrapping is unusual, such as this clever covering for the floor mat my husband got me. (Gene also usually gets the prize for the most beautiful and creative gift wrapping.)

My daughter only wanted money for her minivacation, but I wanted her to open presents, too, so we put checks in empty boxes and wrapped them. “I told you not to get me anything!” gave way to an excited, “Thanks so much!” when she opened the boxes with the checks.  We like to write little sayings on the package, such as, for the Hubble space photos calendar I got for Gene, “This will feed your sense of wonder.” He had to guess what it was before he opened it.

What joy there is when the recipient is delighted, as the giver imagined! The circle is complete, and the relationship strengthened.

That is why it can be so disappointing when any part of the circle is missing. I remember giving gifts that were never acknowledged. Once I found a carefully taken and framed photo I gave my parents, a memento from a trip to Peru, on the floor behind a desk. It had been meaningful to me, but obviously not to them.

I know that not everyone is into gift giving. It happens to be my love language, and some people just don’t feel that way. Keep in mind, though, that gifts do not have to be tangible: acts of service, or spending time with someone, a heartfelt hug, and words of appreciation are also gifts.

I think that when we withhold gifts from each other, unless it’s truly by mutual consent for good reasons, the relationship can be significantly weakened.  That’s why it can feel so empty when, for instance, a family declares, “Let’s not do gifts this year.” Whether intentional or not, what is communicated is, “I don’t feel like making any effort for you, for the relationship. You’re not worth it.”

Homes where there’s emotional neglect will often take this stance. I think it’s very sad.

Another pitfall of gift giving is doing it for show, or just to do something, with no thought of the recipient. Again, that can feel disappointing and empty–to both giver and recipient. Going through the motions is pointless.

Sometimes I give gifts just because I see something I know someone would like. They aren’t expecting it. I always hope they don’t feel obligated to reciprocate. A simple, heartfelt “thank you for thinking of me” is quite sufficient.

If gift-giving this year left you feeling anything but joy, I encourage you to work on whatever came up for you. You don’t want to go into the new year without that weighing you down. Heal whatever deeper relationship issues are there. Remind yourself that the deficit is in the other person’s capacity, not in you. Set relational boundaries where needed. Sometimes the holidays bring to light the truth about a relationship, and though painful, it’s always better to proceed on the basis of truth than illusion.

And remember: the original Gift of Christmas was given by a Father who knew our plight, knew the thing we needed most, and did not withhold it from us. We needed his Son, his only Son, to come and be one with us, sharing our humanity and ultimately conquering all that keeps us from the love, joy and peace God always intended for us. He gave the best thing he had, at great cost to himself. This is the Gift that is always ready to be received, by anyone, at any time. This Gift calls out for people to receive it. And so the Father’s joy will be complete, whenever a person receives the Gift and becomes a child of God too.

The God I know is a supremely good gift giver. . . .

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Thanks for sharing this lovely day of gift giving and receiving. How delighted the Father is when we imitate Him by giving and praise Him by receiving with thanks.


Wonderful to read this


Beautiful post and I can totally relate!

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