12 Holiday Joys, Joy 7 – Giving

There are few things I enjoy more in relationships than giving someone something that I picked out just for them, that I know (or suspect or hope) they’ll love, that makes their lives a little bit brighter. I take gift-giving very seriously — probably too seriously? OR NOT SERIOUSLY ENOUGH.

My philosophy of gift giving has definitely changed over the past couple of years, however. In part, this is because I’ve changed a bit of how I want to live my life and what values I’m choosing to live by in my ripe old age of 36. Mostly, this takes the form of sustainability. I want to live in a way that honors, protects, and enables future flourishing of our planet. I think it’s the most beautiful thing we have and I want to take care of it as well as I can.

One of the biggest hurdles to changing the way humans live on this planet is consumption. We want everything, and we want everything now. My husband and I live in a very, very tiny space, so part of this is motivated by my own deep desire not to clutter up our already tight quarters! The idea of filling it with “stuff” is suffocating.

I also believe in the value of experiences over things, that the memories we make will be more attuned to events rather than items. Sure, some items will become lodged in our memory as deeply loved and deeply important to us (I still remember my brother and me playing with this weird stuffed E.T. doll during a childhood cabin vacation ). But more likely, it’s the environment we’re in and all the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds that will create in us a fond and treasured memory. And not to be too cheesy, but memories are the only thing we can take with us anywhere. And what a delight to be brought suddenly back into a memory we had long forgotten about when we smell our mom’s banana bread, fresh from the oven, or taste the wine we ordered on our honeymoon, or see our hometown’s skyline after years away. Those are magnificently precious, and to give people an opportunity for those is a great privilege and joy.

So this year I’m trying to give as many reusable or experiential gifts as I can. I love to give food, so I’ll make homemade goodies and make those a significant part of my gift-giving.


If I could afford it, I would give everyone tickets to their local symphony. There’s something for everyone (and this Harry Potter experience was beyond delightful!).

Yes, these are still objects, so it’s not like I’m being super strict and only giving gift certificates to pony riding lessons or something. I still want to give people things that they love, things they want, things that speak love to them in the way they best receive it. But I like the idea of giving gifts that enable experiences or incite some kind of happy response throughout the lifetime of their use (short or long). And of course, I have some strong feelings about how books are a special kind of valuable object and deserve the status of experience more than object… but I digress. 😉

More than anything, I love the idea of giving the gift of an experience and of doing what I can to help make people’s memories of their holidays and birthdays even more special. What that looks like for everyone will differ (I love giving gifts that speak to individuals!), but it will revolve around the senses and an attempt to buy locally and sustainably.

On a completely unrelated note, I really know how to take the fun out of things!

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