The Art of Gift Giving

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Aside from my anxiety over Christmas dinner – even after all these years I am worried that the gravy will be lumpy and that all the dishes won’t be ready at the same time – the Christmas season is one of joy for me. I love the twinkly lights, the hope of snow and the warmth of a fire in the fireplace. But mostly I love that it’s a time when family and friends gather and my kids come home. We get the chance to step out of the rush of everyday life and remember the magic and simplicity of childhood. 

One of my favorite sights of the season (besides my family of course) is the sight of presents wrapped and nestled under the Christmas tree. As you might have guessed, gifts are my love language. But even more than opening the perfect gift on Christmas morning, I love giving gifts to other people. I am a firm believer that the true joy of Christmas is being Santa Claus. 

I come by my love of gift giving honestly. Last year, I wrote a bit about Christmas memories of my parents, who were furniture merchants, and my dad making late night deliveries on Christmas Eve with my brother and me in tow (like Santa, except we flew in the back of a delivery truck and not a sleigh). But Christmas was about much more than business for my parents. They loved the coziness and merriment of the season. They would decorate every inch of their store, string twinkly lights in the street and serve mulled wine and goodies to anyone who came in to buy a last minute present or just to chat. They put the same amount of love and effort into our family home, where the decorations centered around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree piled high with presents for us and our entire extended family.

My parents understood the magic of opening presents. All autumn, we would make do with holey socks and pants that had grown too short because my mom wanted to stockpile more presents for Christmas. She taught me that even humble things can be magical if you treat them that way. And on Christmas morning, us kids would sneak down the stairs to the wonder of stockings filled to the brim and the joy of finally opening the presents with our names on the tags. The gifts weren’t expensive, but they were always beautifully wrapped and given with as much delight as they were received. 

This Christmas, I am reflecting on what my parents taught me about the art of gift giving and a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. It’s an art you can practice all year, but it comes in handy the most around the holidays. In the spirit of the season, I’ve pared down my list to twelve lessons:

  1. Speaking of lists, make one.

Just like Santa, it’s good to get organized. I like to make a cup of tea and give myself some time to reflect – part of the beauty of gift giving is taking time to think about someone when they are not around. 

  1. Remember the people in your day-to-day life.

My mom practiced this all year round. She was both a people person and an amateaur photographer and loved to photograph everyone – her neighbours, her hairdresser, her dry-cleaner.  Back in the days of film, Mom always developed seconds to give out to the friends and acquaintances she’d photographed. She knew the value of our daily connections. 

For me, Christmas is a time to give a little extra, and to let the people in my day-to-day life know just how much I appreciate them. The crew at Cedar Mountain is always at the top of my list.

  1. Remember the people you don’t see often enough.

Christmas is also a time to reconnect with old friends, with family that live far away, and with those people who you carry around in your heart even if you don’t see them everyday. Plus, there is an extra special delight in the gift that arrives by mail.

  1. Give a gift someone wouldn’t buy for themselves.

I love to give gifts that are a little frivolous or fun. As my dad used to say, we all need to live a little. He understood the magic of a surprise, of the gift bought on a whim!

  1. Handmade things have a little extra meaning.

Things made by hand are often a little less perfect, but a little more personal.  I also love knowing the story behind an object and inherited this love from my parents as well, who often had personal connections with the makers whose wares they sold.

  1. Don’t give anything with a plug.

In my experience, most things with plugs are not frivolous or fun. When it comes to gift giving, I live by the rule “ function last”! 

  1. Even small things can inspire.

I find that the small objects in my day-to-day life, the things I put on my kitchen counter or hang above the bathroom sink, set the tone of my days and inspire me to play and to hope. I try to give gifts that might do the same.

  1. But don’t overthink it.

In the end, it’s not actually about the gift itself, but the act of giving. Gift giving is a way of telling someone you love them or appreciate them, and the gift is really a token of that love or appreciation. 

  1. Gifts don’t need to be expensive. 

Love and appreciation don’t have price tags after all.

  1. Wrap it.

Present wrapping is one of my favourite Christmas activities. I like to set up a wrapping station in my bedroom (much to Don’s chagrin) and watch an episode or two of Gilmore Girls while I cut, tape and tie to my heart’s content. For me, wrapping a gift is part of how you bake in the magic.

  1. Give it with gratitude. 

Sometimes being Santa has its stresses, and if I am ever feeling overwhelmed by my list, I remember how lucky I am to have every single person on that list in my life.

  1. Receive in the spirit that you give.

It’s especially important to remember this when you unwrap a present on Christmas morning to discover that your husband has bought you a gift from the hardware store. Even a leaf blower can be magical if given with love.

Warm wishes & kisses this holiday season,

Suzanne xo

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