Friday, December 31, 2004

The Art of Gifting

"He is a good man, who can receive a gift well. We are either glad or sorry at a gift, and both emotions are unbecoming." -Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his essay Gifts

Michelle Singletary's Money column this week is about the art of gifting. But it's not about the art of buying gifts, as you would first imagine, but of the art of receiving a gift well. And one of the many lessons I hope to learn in the New Year!

It's also funny to see that even men in the 1800s had no idea what to get their wives for Christmas! But Emerson points out (pointers here, men) that flowers and fruits are always fit presents. Bread and drink were also acceptable gifts.

"The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man's wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith's." (Oh, how Christmas has changed over the years!)

But, alas, even Emerson expected sublime gifting from his loved one:

"I fear to breathe any treason against the majesty of love, which is the genius and god of gifts, and to whom we must not affect to prescribe. Let him give kingdoms or flower-leaves indifferently. There are persons, from whom we always expect fairy tokens; let us not cease to expect them."

May many fairy tokens come your way in the New Year!


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