Boycott Commercial Holiday Gifting

Lately, I’ve been flooded with emails reminding me to get gifts for Mother’s Day. It’s really pissing me off to the point that I’ve just been automatically deleting emails.

I have nothing against Mother’s Day, the moms in my life, or giving gifts. It’s just that gifting has become a chore among many other chores, especially when they’re contrived to pressure people to spend money on a particular day, or else be labeled as an ungrateful, cold-hearted, selfish, cheap ass. Sure, you can give from the heart and make something. But even that seems only appropriate for kids 18 and under.

And what do you give someone who claims she has everything she needs? Another useless, dust-collecting tchotchke that says “I love you, Mom”? A card that will be looked at once and then put away in a drawer, box, or garbage can? Flowers that will maybe last a week if you’re lucky? Spa packages? Lunch, brunch, or dinner?

I would much rather give gifts randomly rather than have it tied to a holiday (especially the commercial ones like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas). Gifting should be just because you happened to see something that reminds you of the person and thought s/he might like it. Or if you happened to see that s/he needs a pick-me-up and thought that this item might do the trick. Or because you just wanted to spend some quality time with someone in an activity that you both enjoy. Most importantly, this gift can be given any time throughout the year.

Why not just recognize those commercial Hallmark holidays verbally or with a heartfelt handwritten note and leave it at that? (And do the gifting randomly throughout the year.) If words are difficult or funds are limited, then just give the gift of positive quality time—be an active listener, help out with some chores/errands, or support person while s/he’s trying out a new activity. I think these things are much more appreciated than something store-brought.

I would probably take the person aside and say, “I don’t know how you might feel about this, but I was thinking I’d like to try something out. You know you are a very important person in my life. I’d like to show you my love and appreciation throughout the year instead of on those token commercial holidays. Would that be OK with you?” Or, you can say that you wanted your gift to stand out among the many that the person would be receiving, by giving it at a different time.

If the person is all about the appearance of celebrating these holidays/events, the other way to work around this is to label the gifting event as an early _____ gift. Even if you’re late, you’re still “early” for next year, right? Of course if you are late/early for next year, it means you need to compensate for the missed opportunity of the current year by the quality of the gift—think of it as added interest.

But regardless of what you decide to give and when, what’s most important is to put yourself in that person’s shoes and think about whether it is something s/he truly would like. Nothing’s worse than getting something that’s more appropriate or convenient for the giver than the recipient.

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