The time has come once again to do some Christmas shopping. My family has done a “Secret Santa” gift exchange for the past couple of years. What we do is we each write up a wish list and then somebody compiles all the wish lists and sends them out in a mass e-mail. Once we learn who our person is, we try to buy him or her something from the wish list.
On the one hand, asking someone for a wish list is good because it ensures you get them something they want. On the other hand, it takes away some of the fun of guessing what they like, which I think is why friends and family members give each other presents instead of money.
If you think about it, any adult ought to know better than anyone else what they want for Christmas. Therefore, it makes more sense to give the person $20 (or whatever you were going to spend) rather than spend that $20 yourself on a gift they might not want.
However, giving somebody money seems sort of cold and impersonal, too much like a business transaction. We want our gift to signal an intimacy with the person that others don’t have. That’s why we buy them gifts instead of giving them money, because only a true friend could know the person well enough to do their shopping for them.
I thought about this and other issues related to gift-giving just before Christmas six or seven years ago. My parents usually say they don’t need anything, and my sisters usually want clothes for Christmas, but I’m not confident enough in my knowledge of women’s fashion to buy them something they would wear in public. So I tried to think of something original I could do for them besides buying them gifts.
I’m not especially artistic, but I’ve always done a fair amount of writing over the years. I decided that the best way to express my appreciation for my family was to write each of them a poem. Each person’s poem was about their unique features or interests. For instance, the one about my dad referenced his love of Bridge and tractors, while the one about my mother was about her fondness for musicals and her career as an attorney.
It took quite a few hours and several rough drafts before I was satisfied with the end product, but my parents and sisters seemed to really enjoy them. I’m thinking about doing something similarly novel this year, but I haven’t figured out what. Any ideas?