Gifting is an area where the material/ecological and human nature/psychology are at odds.
It's good to give, it feels good. It's fun to receive gifts, and important for all kinds of symbolic reasons. Gifting is ritualized; messing with it leaves people confused and hurt. But! Most of us have way more than we need, and the occasions for gifting have been multiplied and grossly inflated by retail marketing and advertising. Choosing a gift that will truly please the recipient is a huge challenge.
There isn't a one size fits all answer, but here is a list of questions I am posing to a group where I will lead a discussion on this topic. Thinking for a few minutes about your answers will likely surprise you.
- What was the best present you recall receiving?
- What was the least appropriate gift you've received?
- What strategies for ratcheting down the "Gifting Industrial Complex" have you or your family employed?
- Do you resent or enjoy gift giving?
- Calculate a quick estimate of the number of gifts you present in a calendar year.
This year I am actually including gifts in an expenditure spread sheet and it's amazing how much we lay out , even though I am highly evolved on this question and avoid material gifts as much as possible. How much more are people in the gift-giving mega-sphere laying out - birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, hostess gifts, birthdays - endless!
My nomination, by the way, for the least appropriate gift I've received was a donation in honor of my Confirmation in 1968. I didn't mind that it was a donation, it's just that it was to The Cemetery Fund. For a sixteen year old. Creepy!! (However, if the goal of a gift giver is to be remembered, it worked. I still recall who it was from.)