Gift-giving holidays exist the world over. Some are big traditional affairs like Christmas. Others are more personal but no less traditional like birthdays. However you give presents, you probably know that they’re important, but haven’t given too much thought to why.
1. They’re Ways to Legitimize Relationships
Gifts can act both as a signal that you care about someone and that you remembered a holiday or date that is important to them. Giving your significant other a gift on your anniversary shows the care you have for your bond, for example. Giving someone a present for no reason other than to show you care is just as good for cultivating a relationship. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Just noticing your friend is having a bad day and treating him or her to ice cream can show you want to provide support. A gift can also be a way to share experiences and interests, like taking someone to an amusement park because you both enjoy thrill rides.
2. They have Symbolic Meaning
Your gift doesn’t have to just be something you think someone will like. Often, gifts have another meaning below the surface. A great example is wedding anniversary presents. The first-anniversary gift is traditionally made of paper to symbolize a clean slate and the fragility of a bond that hasn’t yet stood the test of time. The twenty-fifth-anniversary gift is traditionally silver to show you’re halfway to the golden fiftieth anniversary. Other kinds of gifts often have symbolic meanings too. Watches for men and women, for example, can hold a lot of meaning for the people giving and receiving the gift. If you’re in a romantic relationship, the watch can mean you’re giving someone your time or you treasure the time you spend together.
3. They’re Physical Memories
By nature, gifts are a way to remember people and events by. If you’re married you might still have your wedding china. If you have a hobby like collecting seashells, some of those shells might have been gifts from people who know you and know you like collecting. This is especially common with parents. Children often bring home arts and crafts projects, and plenty of parents like to display those crafts around the house out of pride. Remembering a childhood attempt at painting might embarrass a child, but the gift can remind parents of the warm memory of the day they received it. Experiences can make good physical memories too. You can always take pictures or buy a souvenir.
4. They Make People Feel Acknowledged
People feel good when receiving positive attention. Some people like to be noticed and others prefer to blend in, but either way, a gift can be a good way to acknowledge someone’s accomplishments or emotions. Guests at weddings and graduations traditionally bring gifts of money or tools and supplies that will help the couple or graduate in the future. When we hear someone we know has passed away, many of us will want to do something for the family. People often send flowers or food or donate to a cause that was important to the deceased. All these different kinds of gifts are ways to let people know you’re there for them, even if you can’t be there physically. The present you choose can show you’re proud of someone, you’re happy for someone, or you want to be there for someone to lean on.
5. They Show Appreciation for Others
At its core, gift-giving is really about making our appreciation for others known. Yes, it acknowledges others, but it shows someone that you specifically were thinking about him or her. A good example is giving a present to a teacher you really liked at the end of the school year. Even if it’s something as simple as an elementary school kid giving a teacher a drawing, that drawing can mean the world to the teacher. It shows that he or she really impacted the student in a positive way and that the student is grateful for that.
Of course, you don’t need to wait for a holiday or an important occasion to give someone a gift. Gifts aren’t important because of the days on which people exchange them. They’re important because they strengthen and show off relationships between people.