In Defense of Giving Adults Christmas Gifts

Soldiers playing soccer in No-Man’s Land during the Christmas Truce in 1914.
Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images

Happy Holidays to everyone, no matter what you’re doing in this time, if you’re doing anything at all; maybe it’s just another Sunday, but whatever the case, I hope it’s peaceful and joyful for you. The older I’ve gotten, the more I see this time as a time where the world slows down, if only for a few moments in time, and we approach something approximating what a utopian world of human peace could look like. That’s also why I love sharing the WWI Christmas Truce story and image above. I’m sure in the United States and elsewhere in the world, like unfortunately with the war in Ukraine, there’s still violence and calamities happening today, but on the whole, today feels like a day of peace. And it’s for that reason, among others, I want to defend the act of giving adults Christmas gifts.

I recently saw this Slate article arguing the opposite, and to be fair, the article itself is more understandable than the headline. The primary thesis seems to be that gift-giving among adults, and especially fractious families, can be stressful and anxious, and we often miss the mark anyway, so why not just do away with it and keep the gift-giving for children?

“Imagine if we all just got together to eat, and let go of this ridiculous ritual of spending tons of money and mental energy and not ending up with much we actually want.”

I understand that! And I don’t begrudge anyone who does embrace the idea! Because gift-giving can be stressful and expensive! But here are my counter-thoughts:

  • Being an adult is hard and especially at this time of year, being an adult hits harder and can be lonelier. Gift-giving may seem like a silly ritual and a misplaced symbol of caring, but it is a way of showing affection for others! That we do care about them. That we put thought into a gift. Or maybe it’s just a gift card, but it’s a thought, all the same. (I could do a separate post defending gift cards as gifts, but the short end of it is, gift cards help to alleviate some of the stress and gives somebody something surely that isn’t likely to miss the mark!)
  • Arguably, one of the saddest things about becoming an adult is losing that childlike wonder of eagerly anticipating a Christmas morning. If we can recapture that, even for a moment, on Christmas for adults, why not try?
  • None of this is to say we shouldn’t try to make this day special for children. Of course we should! And I would also argue, which may seem counterintuitive to my overall thesis, that instead of buying for a long list of relatives, you should reallocate that money to charity and sponsoring kids for Christmas. My thought is more so, there is enough merry to go around for children and adults!
  • One final thought, and it’s an anecdote, but one of my fondest Christmas memories and traditions started when I was around 12-or 13-years-old. My grandmother on my dad’s side sent us kids Walmart gift cards (see, about those gift cards!), and we turned around and used that money to buy Christmas gifts for our parents, grandparents, and each other. I don’t know if that’s what my grandmother intended, but it planted a seed in me at the point where I loved giving gifts more than receiving. And it’s still that way. As a kid, showing my appreciation to my parents and other relatives was extremely gratifying. And it still is.

What do you think?

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