Box of Saratoga Chocolates

‘Tis the Season: the Gift-giving Dilemma

I was recently asked a compelling question about an upcoming feast for family and friends. “Are you going to give us (please do!) some direction about gift-giving at this shindig?”

Ah, the gift dilemma!

The holiday season is here once again. It involves Christmas, birthdays, and the ever-present expectation that everything will be perfect. Here are my thoughts (and my husband asked me to say he shares them).

A little history:

In my family, in my childhood, Christmas involved giving gifts to children. Adults did not exchange gifts. Both my parents were raised from an early age by single widowed mothers. Money was tight but no one thought they were “poor”. It was a gift for them to be able to do something special for their children. Despite their circumstances at least one of my grandmothers, if not both, tithed and gave money to the poor.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression and learned to fend for themselves. My father attended the university by working nights as a janitor at the telephone company and joining the National Guard. My mother had no chance of going to college (nor did any of her three brothers) until two of her high school teachers, single sisters who lived together, paid her way. When my parents married, they immediately started saving so their children could someday attend college and have a good life.

My brother and I grew up having a carefree childhood. We did not want for anything, but learned we could not necessarily have everything we wanted right then and there. We lived in Iowa where there were lakes and ponds that froze over in the winter where people could ice skate. I had a pair of black hockey skates that had come into my life somehow so I could skate with my friends. (I was not a natural.) But I wanted a pair of white figure skates like some of my friends had. My wish was not granted, and I was gently reminded that  worldly goods were not the most important thing in life and friends don’t judge friends by the color of their skates. It was a good lesson.

Later I was married in the same town where both my future husband and I had lived most of our lives. Our parents knew many of the people in the town. My hope was to have a small wedding. I planned to make my own dress, a short one I could possibly wear later. This was not to be. So I borrowed a dress from a friend who had married the year before. Many people from the town who I knew only slightly attended. I particularly remember receiving a gift from a woman who I thought of as rich. It was a square cut-glass candy dish with a lid on a pedestal with red glass trim. I am sure it was expensive. I was at a loss with what to do with it as it did not fit my personality or lifestyle at all. I am sure it gave her pleasure to give it to us. It lived on a shelf in my parents’ basement for several years until I found the courage to give it away. For my second wedding, I had a chance to make my own dress.

Fast forward to the present:

I have an abundance of riches, with the perfect amount of food, clothing and shelter. There are many that do not. For me the best gift would be for everyone to have a life with an abundance of riches, whatever that might mean to them. I know that giving gifts is a joy. A gift to others is the best gift for me. So if someone wishes to give me a gift, it can take the form of giving a donation to organizations that help others.

I am not a shopper. My gift to others is a donation to their favorite nonprofit or money that they can use to acquire anything that gives them joy. I do not wish to guess what that is. If I give a donation in their honor, I get a tax deduction; but if I give them the cash with which they can make a donation, they get the tax deduction and it becomes a double gift.

Occasionally I happen on an idea for something that someone would like. I will joyfully buy it as a gift. (Saratoga Chocolates comes to mind.) They are beautiful, delicious, and support a local woman who personally makes them by hand in the village. I am not against gifts, but I personally want them to give joy to both the giver and the receiver.

A long answer to a short question.


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