Friends and I have spoken about this topic extensively. I think these months have coincided with birthday celebrations, thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, Valentines Day, Chinese New year.
The question often comes up, as to what to give, who to give what, should you give the person before they give you? What happens if you get nothing in return? etc. Now I am no present-giving expert, and I am guilty of running out of ideas of what to give. For some reason, whenever it is not time for any of the above celebrations, especially birthdays, I can think creatively about presents. But when a birthday is looming, my brain appears to shutdown and I cannot come up with anything creative to give. Luckily, this does not happen too often, as I would not have any friends left if it did.
But then, that is another thing. Do I have friends because I give them gifts, and they give me in return, and vice versa to infinity, where gift-giving is played like a tit-for-tat game until one person decides not to give? Ofcourse, the answer is that friendships do not depend on the presents, giving is not all about giving presents. Infact, giving includes so much more, time, energy, cooking, entertaining, hosting, etc.
I think giving is an art, as it comes in several forms, and can be interpreted in so many diverse ways, e.g. picking your friend's children up from school because she is busy, or ill; cooking for a friend who needs company, taking a friend to the gallery, theatre, giving time to go for a walk with another friend, and yes of course, giving presents. As humans, since we were children, we have been initiated into the wonderment of present-receiving, a wonder I attribute to the wrapping paper. There is something mysterious and delightfully exciting about receiving something beautifully wrapped. Wondering what might be within the walls of the paper, the delicate, or not so delicate, unwrapping of the paper that has been used to wrap the present, the sounds the paper makes as it crinkles, rapidly and loses that beauty, a tinge of guilt for destroying the results of the careful wrapping of the present, and the two-second preview of the present, where the giver is watching intently on the receiver, to view if the choice of present was the right one, and the receiver is also aware of this observation, and tries to rearrange their face in the right contortion to show surprise and gratitude. Or maybe not. It all depends on the receiver.
But regardless of how gifts in any form are received, let us all try to practise the art of giving, it makes the world go round, and it does add a little bit of happiness and tenderness to another person's day.