How many gifts?

“I’ve done all my Christmas shopping,” my friend Laura announced triumphantly one December a few years ago.

“Great!  What are you getting your family?” I enquired, always on the lookout for any gift ideas I might be able to borrow.

She quickly reeled off a list: a vase for her mother, some cufflinks for her boyfriend, a purse for her sister, etc etc.

And I stood there, stunned, because I realised she was giving just ONE GIFT PER PERSON.

This was astounding to me because our family has developed a culture of giving lots of presents per person. One gift apiece would be seen as shockingly minimalist.

Apparently it all stemmed from when M’s parents immigrated to this country: just two young parents and their infant son. They felt so alone that they showered their young son with gifts at Christmas, to help make up for the lack of family at Christmastime.

Somehow, amazingly, he didn’t end up totally spoiled, and grew up to be a wonderful person. (“Reader, I married him.”)

Their family did not expand further, and so the tradition of biiig Christmases remained. So now, having married into the family, I’m part of it too.  (I recall how mortified I was the first Christmas – my husband didn’t clue me into their bumper Christmas giving, and my gifts seemed embarrassingly lonely in the face of my in-laws’ largesse.  I was better prepared the following year!)

I hadn’t realised how much I’d gotten used to it until Laura reeled off her one-gift-per-person Christmas list. It reminded me that I, too, once used to do Christmas that way – and that families have different gift-giving cultures all of their own.  Laura, come to think of it, comes from quite a large family – she’s one of four siblings, several of whom have now married and had children.  So her immediate family is already much larger than mine, and it makes sense to just buy one gift per person.

What’s the gift-giving culture in your family?

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One Response to “How many gifts?”

  1. Zelda Says:

    Just like you we buy multiple gifts for each person. We don’t have to spend a lot on each gift but generally each person gets one big(ger) gift and then lots of small, useful items.

    We open our first gift after Christmas Eve dinner, about 11.30pm, head to bed and then open the next gift before breakfast and the rest of the day is spent opening gifts every now and then.

    Is also great because you tend to remember who gave you what – unlike the times when you open everything at once and then try and remember who gave you what. Also great for kids as they get to concentrate on one gift at a time.

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