December 12, 2007

Gifts

This time of year, I have found myself in several conversations about gifts.

Today, I was reading QueerCents which had an article that is a "what would you do" about "regifting."

Personally, I tend to exchange gifts with my immediate family this time of year - after all, it's the only time that we all get together. We also celebrate religious festivities this time of year, although that is only peripherally related to the gift-giving.

I found myself leaving this comment on the QueerCents which was supposed to be about "regifting" but ended up being about "gifting" more generally. I would love to hear in the comments about what you think about "gifting" or "regifting." Also, some Quench readers and writers are the friends that I am talking about here so feel free to let me know that my assessment of our social circle's values is completely off and that I'm just a social outcast. I won't be too hurt.


My friends and I tend to exchange gifts more randomly than around the holiday season. And it's nice when gift-giving can be done in a thoughtful way that doesn't stress people out about whether you are getting someone enough or the right stuff.

A lot of friends go to visit their families of origin during December anyway, so perhaps if we were to pick a time, we would do better to pick January.

Maybe this is because I hang out with a lot of activists, but we tend to think of "regifts" as particularly thoughtful. "I came across this and it made me think of you" can be way more thoughtful than "I wandered around a mall trying to find something and couldn't find anything so bought some crap out of a feeling of obligation."

Even "I went to a conference and they gave me your favorite kind of chocolate and I brought it home for you," or "I know you love neat picture frames and I was recently helping a friend clean out her apartment and look at the picture frame she was going to throw away! I saved it for you" can be the best ways to give gifts, even if no money is spent.

Basically, I think done right, regifting can be environmentally friendly, allow for more creativity, deepen friendships, avoid consumerism, save people money, and allow people to celebrate each other throughout the year instead of in some strange and awkward seasonal competitive rush.

I think it's important to be able to show someone you care about them without necessarily buying something. Maybe I make something, cook something, or just take the time to show up to be there for someone when they need you, even if it's an inconvenient time. Yes, you might have to buy the supplies to make something, the ingredients with which to cook, or the cup of coffee when you meet someone to talk, but the focus can be on caring rather than buying. I am not saying that buying is inherently bad, I am just saying that we can do things for each other without expecting that things that we care about are always available at the mall.

After making the comment, I was thinking about some of the gifts I have given and received in the past few years and realized that a ton of the gifts given and received were either food or donations to organizations like The MS Walk, MTPC, or MIRA. And of course over the years, some fabulous clothes that icarus had knack for finding for free for everyone, the world's most fabulously queer toaster (I really need to post a picture), and plenty of people being generous with their apartments, their food, and their time to plan and execute fun get togethers. What is gift giving like in your circles?

2 comments:

spork said...

I'm a big fan of giving donations as presents. Two of my favorite sites for this are DonorsChoose.org, where the recipient can choose a public school classroom need to fill, and ChangingThePresent.com, where you can contribute money to a bunch of different kinds of causes all over the world. It's kind of hokey - for example, you can give "4 days of ambulance service in Haiti" or "technology training for one low-income woman" - but it does give the recipient a sense of what the money donated in leiu of giving them actually stuff can do in the world.

I also like the idea of giving experiences, not stuff, and I've been trying to do this for a long time. So I've done stuff like give a 10 year old who was really into sports a day at a rock climbing gym with me, or give a 13 year old tickets and a ride to a concert of his choice for him and a few friends. Both of these examples involve money, but they don't have to. A home cooked meal is great, especially if you have a culinary specialty the giftee doesn't have. You can do lots of stuff.

I feel like these experiential gifts are in my experience both better appreciate and more remembered than traditional gifts... not to mention better for the environment.

emily0 said...

I can't afford gifts mostly, and I don't get to see the family members I would give them to anyway, so mostly I do nothing for Christmas. Well, I dunno what I do. It's a conundrum. I'm never sure what to do every time Christmas rolls around. (My family is Christian.)