Happy Giving

When the weather is rough, meteorologically and politically, Christmas shines all the brighter. Since the greatest joy often lies in anticipation, shops and shopping malls start bringing out Christmas cookies, marcipan and advent treats immediately after summer break: heralds of a f(r)amily feast with candle lights, maybe a church visit, but definitely piles of presents. Same procedure every year!

Gift giving is a primeval rite. It connects people because it needs empathy to treat others with presents. It also pays off as gifts have to be reciprocated sooner or later. This motivates even shopophobics. And Germans splash out. Last year every German over 12 years spend 466 Euros on Christmas presents. How can they spend this money usefully?

Here are some tips from happiness research. First status gifts (the luxury wristwatch, the designer handbag or an expensive smartphone) may fall short of expectations if the Joneses or other participants in our friendly competition for status can present an even more exclusive gift. Even if not, status gifts need constant upgrading. Better be careful!

Also money, the Germans’ favorite Christmas gift, may disappoint when the presentee has no heart’s desire. It then just drains away in everyday consumption. Therefore, give events and common activities instead – a night at the opera, a surprise trip or things that have a special story. When told well, a story will add significance to any present.  

Also, it makes sense to spend the Christmas budget on more rather than less people. You may even think about making a present to somebody who doesn’t expect it. Perhaps not Donald Trump but maybe some other problematic character from your relevant set. Finally, always consider the ecological footprint of your gifts. Perhaps you cancel your flight for that shopping spree in New York or do without toxic Christmas wrapping. Consider local gifts, something from close to home. In this way you also make a gift to nature. Have fun!