“Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them.” ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Every year, December sees my family celebrate two birthdays, Christmas, and Chanukah.
With gift-giving in the forefront of my mind this month, I’m stopping to consider how gifts can be expressions of love rather than just presents for presents’ sake.
Dr. Gary Chapman’s theory of “love languages” offers distinct categories of ways different people give and receive love. These categories include quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, and receiving gifts.
According to Dr. Chapman’s website, people who identify with receiving gifts as their main love language “thrive on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.” It’s not because they’re materialistic. They simply treasure gifts as “visual representations of love.”
That idea is accurate in my experience too. Take, for example, my jewelry box. It’s full of items that are technically very similar, like earrings or bracelets. However, to me, there’s a big difference between the bracelet I bought on a whim and the bracelet my husband gave me that once belonged to his grandmother. Even if they’re technically worth the same amount monetarily, the second bracelet is a tangible reminder of my husband’s love. It’s a symbol of family and love throughout generations — of where we came from, and of future generations yet to be.
This year, I’m interested in giving gifts that are representations of love. Here’s how to approach gifts with a love language mindset:
There have been times when I’ve received the exact gift I wanted, and yet it didn’t feel as good as the gift I didn’t know I needed. For instance, one of the best gifts I’ve received was a creative writing workbook. It wasn’t something I would have picked out for myself. But as I started to use it, I realized how much I’d needed an outlet for self-expression. Is there someone in your life who’s tired and needs rest? Someone who’s lonely and needs company? Someone who’s scared and needs encouragement? Let that be the guiding inspiration behind your gift to them.
While giving an expensive gift can be exciting, it’s generally not the cost of the gift that makes it memorable or meaningful. This is especially easy to forget during the holidays, when there’s so much glossy advertising suggesting otherwise. Even the priciest gift’s glittering aura can fade quickly once it’s unwrapped and put away. Try not to get hung up on the cost of your gift, but rather, its impact on the recipient.
This one might seem like a no-brainer. But nothing detracts love from a gift more than getting the feeling that it’s just an afterthought. Don’t forget, and don’t wait until the last minute. One strategy is to jot down ideas throughout the year, taking note of interests your loved one mentions. The fact that you made the effort to remember will mean a lot. Also, don’t forget presentation. Taking the extra time to wrap your gift nicely will reflect the time you took on what’s inside.
A great example of a gift given lovingly was Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s “30 Days of Smiles,” which was originally featured in Bella Grace Issue 11. When Moyer started to think about choosing a birthday gift for her mother, she recognized that her mom was downsizing her life and keeping a very busy schedule.
“So I thought of a gift that would require very little time and no storage space whatsoever. Every day, for a month, I would send Mom an email. The email would contain something — a quotation, a photo, a video clip, a song — that would lift her spirits. I explained it all in a handwritten card, given to her on her birthday. I called it “A Month of Uplifting Things.”
This season, let your gifts come from your heart. Be wary of feeling overwhelmed or resentful about giving. These could be signs that you’re giving out of obligation or expectation, not love. Don’t stress or put excessive pressure on yourself. At the end of the day, remember that one gift is just one gift. Love entails giving in many different ways all year round.
How do you approach gift-giving when the holidays roll in? Join the conversation in the comments below — we love hearing your voice.