Health

Why the perfect present may not be what you think it is

It's "holiday season" yet again, which means that the pressure is officially on. Have you been able to find the appropriate meaningful gift for everyone on your list?

present

Masterfile

It’s “holiday season” yet again, which means that the pressure is officially on. Have you been able to find the appropriate meaningful gift for everyone on your list? Have you spent approximately the same amount of money on every person you love, so to minimize the likelihood that anyone will guess just who’s your favourite? (And don’t kid yourself; when it comes to family, we all have our favourites.) Have you colour-coordinated your wrapping paper and bought dozens of those tiny bows that serve no purpose?

Not me. I ditched a lot of that stuff a long time ago. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas. It’s just that I quibble with how it’s done: The glitter! Spending $100 on wrapping paper! Competing over who can give the best gift! Mountains of presents that take five hours to open!

It’s nice to spend time with friends and family. And, like most things in life, when it comes to the holidays I’m in it for the food. I’ve given up looking for the “perfect gift,” and I just aim to do one nice thing for everyone on my list. It doesn’t have to be perfect or expensive or particularly poignant. Mostly, I go with books. But if I think they might really like a bottle of $14 wine, that’s what they’re getting.

A recent story by John Tierney in The New York Times“In Pursuit of the Perfect Gift? It’s a Lot Closer Than You Think” — examines three rules offered by social scientists when it comes to holiday shopping:

  • You don’t have to spend any time looking for “thoughtful” gifts
  • You don’t have to spend much money, either
  • Actually, you may not have to spend any money

Apparently, studies show that lavish gifts tend to make the giver feel better, but spending extra time and money doesn’t necessarily have a strong impact on the recipient. It turns out that a nice gesture — baking some cookies for someone, signing them up for a magazine subscription — is all it takes to make someone’s Christmas or Hanukkah a little rosier. And that way, you don’t have to drive yourself crazy trying to make everything “perfect.”