Holiday Gift-Giving is giving stress to those with less

Gift-giving during Christmas can feel like such a dreadful expectation, especially for those who don’t have the money to spend on gifts.



People with lower financial statuses might face a challenge when the season of giving rolls around and people are expected to give gifts. Body:

Christmas is  a widely celebrated holiday around the world, it’s almost impossible to imagine December without it. 

With the Christmas countdown ticking away, people tend to worry when it comes to finding the perfect gift to get friends and family to show appreciation. People worry about whether the person who receives their gift will actually use it, if they will think it’s strange, and even wonder whether they will see them differently because of the gift they gave.

And while there is a lot of enjoyment while opening gifts and seeing the happiness that giving gifts brings to people, the whole process of gift-giving just feels like an ugly, universal expectation that everyone is expected to follow during the holiday giving season. If I don’t get a heartwarming gift for people, I will be seen as cheap and self-centered. When did Christmas become all about presents? 

Advertisements partially play a role in setting these expectations during December. They always say something along the lines of, “ Get your special person that perfect gift,” and “Show how much you love them.”  It almost feels like they are saying that if people don’t buy and give gifts for Christmas, then they won’t know or feel that they care about them. Of course, this is not true, but this norm has imposed pressures on many people during the Christmas season.

There should never be pressure to get anyone anything ever, even during Christmas. These expectations to give gifts during birthdays, weddings, baby showers, Christmas, being invited to someone’s house, anniversaries, and more weird and almost unnecessary events is completely crazy. If gifts are expected, are they given, or are they delivered?

For people with less money, feeling like they have to give someone a gift to show that they care can put them in an uncomfortable situation of having to choose between getting someone a gift and showing them that they care or having enough money to eat a meal and feeling bad about not giving something. This pressure might become even more uncomfortable if the person that they are giving a gift to give them an expensive gift the year prior. 

Some people aren’t sure if they are going to have enough money to eat, they aren’t sure if they are going to be able to pay their rent, they are living paycheck to paycheck, and buying presents for Christmas is one of the last things on their list of stuff to worry about. 

When someone gets an expensive gift, it puts everyone in a weird place. The person receiving the gift might feel bad because of how much money they spent on them, and they might feel bad if they did not get that person as an expensive gift. The person giving the gift might have worried that if they spent too little money, they would be seen as cheap, but they might also worry that if they spend too much money, it might feel like a pressure for the next year to get something expensive as well.

Sometimes at Christmas parties, a popular game that is often played is White Elephant. For those who are unfamiliar with it, White Elephant is a gift-giving game where everyone brings a gift and picks a number out of a hat. People can either pick out one of the wrapped gifts on the table or steal someone else’s gift that they picked out before. 

There is also Secret Santa, where each player picks out a name from a hat and gets that person a gift. When getting presents for my friends, we made the decision to do one of these games, so we didn’t have to get everyone a gift, and we had fun watching everyone opening their gifts. 

Normally when playing these gift-giving games, a maximum spending amount is given. This way, people wouldn’t feel bad if they spent less than someone else. It establishes a clear budget and what kind of gift should be given. 

But people don’t have to give gifts during Christmas to show others that they care about them. Whoever thought that that’s how Christmas and gift giving worked just wanted to get a lot of presents. Material gifts are overrated, I think the best way to show appreciation for someone is to spend quality time with them.

While gifts can be memorable and special, quality time with family and friends is even more memorable than anything that can be wrapped with brightly colored paper. I would prefer to spend Christmas without presents and with family rather than a Christmas without family with many presents. 

For example, this year, my family will be doing a nice, big, family Christmas gathering. We have been planning it for a while now and will try to get as much of the family to come as possible. Because my grandma is getting older and forgetting things a little bit more often, we thought it would be a good idea to give her a memorable and meaningful Christmas. We plan to have some games, a movie, and a delicious Christmas dinner. 

Experiences like a big family Christmas gathering are the things that make the most memorable memories. Having the entire family together, catching up, making jokes, and telling stories, it’s all really fun. I can’t stress enough how accurate and important this quote that I once heard Andy Bernard from “The Office” say: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” 

If everyone is expected to give gifts at all these different kinds of events, it will lead to having way too many things lying around the house or having to get rid of a lot of unwanted presents. This is how things like hoarding problems start. People receive all of these gifts, only about 30% of which either sparks joy or is of use to them, but they don’t want to get rid of the gifts that they don’t use because they feel bad that someone went out of their way to get for them, just for it to be thrown away.

A research study by ING found that during the Christmas of 2018, about 10 million unwanted items were given, amounting to about $400 million. It’s almost a little heartbreaking. People go out of their way, spending all of this time and money on a gift that they think someone will like, just for it to end up being thrown away. People shouldn’t buy someone something unless they are about 99% sure that they will like it and use it. 

Worrying during Christmas-time about gifts and how much should be spent and if people should even buy gifts should completely stop. Buy gifts for people if you see something that makes you think of them instead of  going to the store in hopes of inspiration to buy a gift that that person might not even like and end up just throwing away in a year. Just spend time with family and friends and soak in the time with them while there is still time. Stop the pressure to give gifts during Christmas; that’s a real gift.