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The 16 School Days of Christmas: All I want for Christmas is to give better gifts

Some people are naturally good at giving gifts. Others have to work at it.
Rachael Bonneau
Some people are naturally good at giving gifts. Others have to work at it.

In his bestselling book from the ’90s, The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman calls gift-giving as one of the preferred ways of expressing human love. For some, he argues, the receipt of a gift – or the giving of one – creates human affection and a sense of being appreciated.

No doubt, he is correct. Many people enjoy gift exchanges and are good at finding the perfect gift.

I, however, am not.

Since my early childhood, I have been blessed with Christmas gifts from my family. And when I was young, there was little pressure to return the favor; from a 6-year-old, a handwritten card and a “World’s Best Dad” mug were enough to win the day.

This is what he does best: He knows how to buy you a gift that you didn’t even know you wanted.

But as I aged, my gift-giving prowess did not catch up with the increase in yuletide expectations. I often forgot gifts, or my mother would buy them on my behalf. In some cases, I was shopping (and wrapping) at the last minute, putting precious little thought into the gifts I was giving.

For the most part, I’ve been forgiven. But my own conscience rests uneasy, and this season, I seek to capture some of the gift-giving talent with which my father is so mysteriously imbued.

My dad has always had an eye for “the perfect gift.” He sees somethingin a store, and knows who to buy it for and how to present it. This ability manifests itself well during the holidays, in a happy wife and thankful kids.

This is what he does best: He knows how to buy you a gift that you didn’t even know you wanted. Several years ago, he got me a handheld version of the Oregon Trail video game. I never expected or asked for it, but I loved it all the same.

This points to the essence of gift-giving, and it might give us a hint as to why it’s so hard for many of us. To give a gift that resonates, you have to truly step outside yourself and embody the needs, wants, and preferences of another. That’s the beauty of Christmas: We become servants and givers, no longer ourselves but part of something bigger. 

That’s the beauty of Christmas: We become servants and givers, no longer ourselves but part of something bigger.

Thus, I’ve taken on my Christmastime mission. This year, I seek to put genuine effort and thought into the gifts I give. Each one should have a purpose: It should boost the happiness quotient of its recipient. When done right, Christmas has a magical residue of happiness and joy that extends into the New Year; it leaves people transformed, changed. Gifts are a major part of this, of showing people they are loved.

But this isn’t just for me. Are you a re-gifter? A Dec. 23 Amazon orderer? A “mail the gift in January with an apology” person? 

If so, let not your heart be troubled. Even if you have to buy for 10 people this year, try to put extra thought into the gifts you get for three of them. See how it changes them. But more importantly, notice how it changes you.

The experience of giving is foundationally human, essential to who we are. As Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

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About the Contributors
Kevin Hutchinson
Kevin Hutchinson, Staff Writer
Senior Kevin Hutchinson is a third-year staff writer. He enjoys following politics, watching football, and spending time with his girlfriend. 
Rachael Bonneau
Rachael Bonneau, News Editor
News Editor Rachael Bonneau is a senior and a second-year staff member. If she’s not at the library, she’s probably playing video games with her friends.
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    Chris RostekDec 11, 2023 at 6:54 am

    Beautifully said!

    Reply