I’m not going to give you the typical spiel about the “reason for the season.” Yes, the holidays should be — and for many, are — a time for giving, selflessness, and family. But you and I both know that in the American understanding, Christmas (the only winter holiday I have any experience with and therefore authority to speak about) has become almost entirely divorced from any meaning outside of capitalism.
I recognize the irony of me saying that in an issue that is, by my own hand, dedicated to gift giving. However, I point out the ties between Christmas and capitalism not in an effort to urge you to reject the gift-giving aspect of the holiday — rather, to embrace it. This holiday offers us an opportunity to be more mindful and meaningful in our gift-giving, to remember and uphold the impact of the oft most misunderstood love language.
Of all the love languages, gift giving (and receiving) is my favorite. Whereas the others (physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service) I see as basic everyday relationship maintenance, gift giving is like the cherry on top, an act of love that goes above and beyond to make someone feel special, to give them a physical reminder of that specialness. This may be because, at my core, I just love things.
I understand the urge upon reading that to label me as materialistic. And, despite being a staunch anticapitalist, I would agree; there are quite a lot of earth placements in my astrological chart, after all. However, I think the operative word in the sentence “I love things” is “love.” I cherish the things that I own. I hate clutter, and I hate to my core owning things that are cheap or ugly or unnecessary. YouTuber Kristen Leo has a great video that completely changed my attitudes toward my own admiration for things, called “Materialism (is actually kinda great)”, that I urge you to watch to truly understand what I mean. When I find something that is beautiful, something that makes my life feel a little more beautiful, that makes me incredibly joyful.
This is especially true when those beautiful things are gifted to me. As internet princess Rayne Fischer-Quann writes, “giving a good gift is a side effect of listening… any good gift comes with the secret, implicit gift of being understood.” I have been lucky enough to have been given many thoughtful gifts in my life by people who have taken the time and love to understand me. Every year for my birthday, my best friend gets me my favorite seasonal ice cream, Jeni’s Cream Puff. It’s $12 a pint but so good it’s worth double that. One of my good friends recently gifted me a paint chip with a bell hooks quote written on it — something they clearly pulled from the huge collection of miscellaneous things hanging from their bedroom wall — because they knew how much hooks’ work means to me. My ex-partner drew me a beautifully done portrait of my cat. We have not spoken in years, yet that portrait still hangs on my wall, lauded as one of my most prized possessions.
I’ve also received meaningless gifts, obviously given simply to fulfill the expectation of gift-giving endemic to the season. I’m by no means resentful of the people who have given me these gifts; it truly is the thought that counts. But their presence in my life is gift enough, and I’d just rather be given nothing than receive something I wouldn’t choose to own myself.
My point is that, yes, the holidays and Christmas in particular are mostly just about gifts, but that’s okay — rather, it’s okay if we take the time to honor the love of gift giving. In this issue, we’ve curated items that we want you to love; items that are unique, well-made, long-lasting, genuinely good gifts. As you flip through the issue (and the next, where you’ll be able to find kitchen, food, and drink gifts), I encourage you to buy something only if you see it and immediately think of someone you love. Don’t buy something because it’s expensive and impressive or because you have no better ideas or because it’s pretty cool, I guess. I want you to buy it with love in your heart. Because that’s all gift-giving is: a declaration of understanding; of recognition that the recipient has a birthright to beauty and enjoyment; of love.
I know I said I wasn’t going to say it, but that’s the reason for the season.