Who knows when the first gift was given. Maybe it was a prehistoric hunter offering a spare cut of meat about to go bad. Ever since, in probably every society, gifting has become a way of life; and for all sorts of reasons – to celebrate, to show off, to bribe, to express heartfelt affection or merely to follow prevailing etiquette.
Social gifting has largely been the province of women who sociologists tell us generally take charge of the “expressive functions” in our society. Believe me, I’m thankful for that. I don’t know about the women in your life, but my wife will never miss an opportunity to buy and give a gift. And will devote considerable thought and energy before deciding upon one. (no re-gifting for her.) I will at times question her unbridled generosity, but that puts me in an awkward position. How do you argue against giving even a token gift? What would that say about you? The problem is, once you concede a gift is appropriate where do you draw the line? And so I go along with her gift giving (and many contributions) which knows few bounds. I rather doubt she’s doing it to satisfy some competitive urgings (although she will on occasion note that an incoming gift was decidedly inferior to the one previously given to that same individual), but rather because she is by nature generous and given to doing the “right thing”.
So in any given year gifts will go out to a basic list of perennials and to meet a host of one-time obligations. Within the family there are the usual birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, Father’s and Mother’s Days and numerous holidays which involve gifts. The children, of course, will receive gifts at any time, simply because they like and expect them. Then, there are those non-scheduled occasions which always appear to pop up. That would include graduations, special honors, favors and services received, homes visited, parties attended (despite notice of “No gifts please”), etc. I’ve never been brave enough to tally our annual gift totals, nor the costs incurred. I’m unlikely to even come close. (Would that our tax laws awarded such generosity and allowed itemized deductions for personal gift giving).
My only consolation in this orgy of gift giving is that for the most part I’m given a pass, need not participate all that much in the decision making and purchasing of presents. I am consulted on occasion with regard to spending levels, although my suggested limits are normally exceeded. Still, I’m usually thanked by those receiving our gift and commended for my generosity and excellent taste – surely ironic, as you now understand