Gift giving has become tarnished with the "stuff we don't need" tag and like many popular causes perhaps it has gone too far. It has been suggested that the debate has been taken over by those who don't understand the tradition, those who jump on any anti bandwagon, or even worse, those who are too lazy to accept the responsibilities that come with proper gift giving.
The backlash to gift purchases is not new. In 1912 The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, or SPUG, was formed in the US and boasted a large membership, including former president Theodore Roosevelt. Questioning society's spending habits is a very healthy undertaking and different historical events including wars, recessions, and periods of great prosperity have influenced trends.
However true gift giving is very wholesome and it can take many forms. The Three Wise Men gave Jesus gifts fit for a King. Countries give gifts to other countries or visiting dignitaries as signs of friendship. Families and friends have a long tradition of gift giving on many special occasions. It is all about showing respect or appreciation or just letting somebody know how you feel.
At a family level the idea is to select gifts that suit the recipient, that will hopefully make them happy, and sometimes inspire them to achieve their dreams. So the budding musician may receive a guitar and the homemaker a gift to enhance their surroundings at home. The personalising of gifts is what makes them significant. It is not the value in dollars but the effort put into their selection. Kris Kringle anonymous gift giving is often criticised for avoiding the personal touch in favour of convenience and economy.
A "make it yourself" gift has always been considered a great substitute for buying “stuff”. Making your own gifts can reduce the consumption of resources and is very personal. And for those with lots of spare time that is a great option. But those of us who do not have that time (or skill) there is the gift manufacturing and retailing industry and let’s not forget that industry supports many jobs and small businesses (including market traders) in the process.
It is true that a gift doesn’t have to be a purchased item – an act of kindness is a very worthwhile gift. But when a purchased gift is the best way of expressing your feelings we should be able to do that without the baggage of the “stuff” tag. A gift that is given with care and consideration can add much to human relationships and that is a very worthwhile pursuit.