Giving is the New Getting

Holiday joy is readily available to all who desire it… but ultimately, you’ll only get what you give

Mikaila Poirier (she/her) // Contributor
Apsara Coeffic-Neou (she/her) // Illustrator 

Wintertime is here, and I feel much different about it as an adult.  Long gone are the days of unadulterated joy and anticipation during the holidays. As a child, worries about time and money were far less prominent in my mind, and it was difficult to understand why my parents couldn’t always share my excitement. Of course, as I’ve aged it’s become obvious why the holidays weren’t necessarily the best time of year for the adults around me. Priorities begin to shift, and our focus naturally switches from receiving to giving.  

For a long time, I struggled to establish a healthy balance in my life during the winter. The culminating demands of school and work meant that buying gifts for my loved ones was just another thing to add to my list of responsibilities that I wished to avoid. In more recent years, though, I’ve been trying to rediscover the holiday magic through embracing this new role. I’ve started taking it seriously. As it turns out, buying gifts is actually a source of great joy for me when I leave myself enough time to think ahead and deliver something meaningful.  

Being a good gifter is an acquired skill; one that serves every type of relationship. When we view gifting as the delicate art that it is, the rewards to be reaped are far more valuable than the effortless thrills of receiving. Don’t get me wrong, the beauty in any gift exchange is just that: the exchange. Both parties get to share in the unique joys that both roles have to offer. Yet, historically, I’ve always felt that the pressure of opening gifts takes away from my ability to actually focus on the gift itself. 

Having multiple sets of eyes stare at me while I unwrap something makes it difficult to not lean into some sort of performance that nobody’s really asking for. When I’m in the role of the giver, however, the excitement I feel watching someone open the gift and the connection I feel with them when they actually like it are the most fulfilling parts of the season. This is where my holiday joy hits its peak. 

Where it’s sparked, though, is in the act of planning. As much as I can, I like to avoid buying presents off of a wish list. There’s no romance in that. I’ve found that my best gifts are ones that have been plotted strategically over time, by way of paying attention throughout every season. People are always mentioning things they want or need in passing, and I’ve made a practice of keeping notes on these things year-round so I don’t have to do any mental gymnastics when the season of giving approaches.  

It’s a waiting game, but it serves two purposes; it provides them with something that will undoubtedly improve their life, and it demonstrates that their needs are valuable to me. Gifting in this way has strengthened my relationships and encouraged me to remain curious and empathetic towards those I love. As much as I miss the simplicity of childhood, these things wouldn’t be accomplished if my focus was still on receiving.

For many of us, the holidays are bittersweet. Most of the familiar joys we felt growing up are still there; they just don’t quite look the same. Our responsibilities have changed, and the ways in which we experience these joys will continue to evolve as we do. Still, as with so many things in life, the power lies in our perspective. Giving can be expensive and time-consuming, but it’s also one of the loveliest things about this season.  

Amongst all the instability, I can always be sure that the feeling I get when I give authentically will stay the same. So when the stress sets in, just remember that the more gifts we have to buy each year, the more people we have in our lives who care about us.

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