[quote="puzzleannie, post:19, topic:180794"]
the thing that needs liberation is the attitude behind gift giving, namely regarding them as tit for tat, as an obligation that requires some return, as one-upmanship (grandparents excel at this game with the other set of grandparents), as manipulation--you send somebody a gift that dictates their behavior in some way, ie a bible to an atheist, a football to a boy who is into art. We do this in very subtle ways--and CS Lewis does the best job of illustrating this in his books like Screwtape and Great Divorce--letting people know even non-verbally we demand gratitude for every gift we give, and we demand some return for our generosity, some appreciation, some little material token of esteem from those we claim to love.
Gift giving can be a real joy when it springs from a genuine desire to do a thoughtful act of kindness for another. I still remember the fun we had shopping for our first Christmas as newlyweds (well engaged, we married the day after). We did it all at Pier 1 which was then a new store, and much less expensive, and more unique, than it is today. Except for the pet turtle for BIL. We were totally broke and still managed to find something for everyone, selected with that individual in mind, and probably spent $20 total.
Other lean Christmases we have "good deed-doers day"--wash someone's car, shovel their walk, clean windows, done household repairs, repaired bicycles, all kinds of things. For DS we restock his apartment with staples, paper products, things to bulky and heavy to carry on the bus, and also do this for an elderly relative. We have passed that task on to a grandchild who is also in a tight financial situation. He goes in and totally cleans the homes of the elderly relatives who live in his town. A neighbor in our trailer park cuts grass for those who can't do it themselves.
This is an older post but it appears to be the most insightful thing I've read about Christmas and gift-giving in a long time. I have both been guilty of this behavior (giving things with strings attached) and been the recipient of it, and neither time it felt good.
There are times when I've wanted to - not just encourage an interest in someone that I think they will like, but give based on what I want them to do or b/c I want them to think well of me. And I've had other people do that to me and not just about Christmas, but in terms of gift-giving in general. And that includes non-material gifts, such as expectations for the other person in a relationship, not just romantic ones. Everyone has expectations of the other person and sometimes they are reasonable and other times, not.
Sometimes the gift (of money, things, time, or approval) has come with so many strings attached that I've felt worse taking advantage of it than I did without it, b/c I worried about not living up to what I felt was expected. I have tried not to do this with other people but I can't say I've always succeeded.
Sometimes it's been easier to refuse the gift if it seems like taking it will cause strain. I was offered money for medical care at one point and the offer was genuine but the other person, who was not a close family member, seemed to have a need to see me a certain way and approve of me. I got the impression that although he really meant what he said, he would rather I not need the money, b/c he had a hard time with the idea that I might not be doing well, although he knew I was going to have a lot of medical expenses.
I could be wrong about what I remember, but I've chosen to keep the memory of this person's limited support of me, which was emotional and not financial, and not ask for money which might lower his opinion of me, b/c the memory of his approval has been important.
I think people do this to each other all the time and Christmas is a major time when this happens, not for everyone, but to a lot of people. The idea is that the gift-giver is trying to live out his or her dreams through you, rather than accepting the life you have yourself. This can range from gifts that are a bit out of touch to things that are really inappropriate, like giving a kitten to someone who hates cats, b/c you think cats are cute and the person should get over their dislike.
I like the suggestions for giving when people don't have much money.