Cultivating the Joy of Gift Giving

annebwWhen I was a little girl, we never had extravagant Christmases. As excited as we were about the gifts, my mom always reinforced that “Jesus is the reason for the season” by making a Betty Crocker birthday cake for Jesus every year, we didn’t bother to put the right number of candles on, obviously. My parents also didn’t go into debt to lavishly shower us with gifts. My dad, an accountant, was very good at budgeting, and every year we had a budget. And our gifts were modest and meaningful.

However, one tradition I always liked was that one of us three kids got a “big gift” each year, and we rotated each year. If it was your year to receive the “big gift,” it was understood that you would not get as many smaller gifts that year, but you would get something a little extra lavish. I remember one year for me it was a leather bomber jacket that ran about $100 from Wilson’s leather, and that was a lot for our family in 1989. I guess the “big gifts” usually ran about $100.

The other part of this tradition that really sticks with me was getting excited for my brother or sister when it was their year to go big. Even if we weren’t getting a big exciting gift, my other sibling and I would be “in on” what the gift was. We had a secret about something that our brother or sister was getting, and we shared in the excitement of the surprise. It was a big to-do when it came time to open the big gift. The whole family would take such delight in presenting the gift and witnessing the excitement of getting something extra special. The gifts I remember getting most excited about were the year my older brother got a season pass for the local ski hill, and the year my older sister got a coveted papasan chair from Pier One Imports.

I’m not sure if it was the times, the 1980s, but it sure felt less consumeristic. I know our Christmases weren’t lavish because our family really didn’t have a lot of money, but I also don’t remember the rich kids getting the equivalent of an ipad-mini. Or maybe it’s because my parents didn’t place a lot of value on things, so I just didn’t notice.

Thinking back, I don’t even remember many of the specific gifts me or my brother and sister would get, other than those “big gifts.” But I do remember the excitement of watching my siblings get something special, and to this day I think I still enjoy giving gifts more than receiving them.

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