Originally Posted by Yooper
So again, why? How did gifts and STUFF in general get so much power over us? Is it getting worse in the recent past (I seem to feel that way)? Or has it always been this way? Why is this so emotional? Does it seem silly and a little scary to anyone else that I am really not "allowed" to have any control over the messages and values my dd is getting from THINGS or the amount of STUFF that is in my living space?
While gifting in relation to Christmas hasn't been around as an established cultural event for more than 150(ish) years, gifting at various holidays and events has been around since we walked out of the caves (and was probably around before then). And you hit the nail on the head. Gifting is about POWER.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. But I think one way to untangle -- or at least recognize -- the emotions that come with gifting and receiving gifts is to understand the social imperative driving the gift-giving ritual.
It's about establishing and re-establishing connections. Between friends, allies, associates, relatives, future relatives, neighbors, employees, employers...choosing the "right" gift, correctly reading the person you're giving a gift so that you give them something of equivalent value to what they're giving you (and reading the relationship correctly that they ARE giving you a gift) -- OR giving or receiving a gift that's significantly higher in value than the one given in recognition of a dominant/sub power relationship -- demonstrating affection and loyalty to a person. And so on and so forth.
Christmas and gift-giving changed a lot in the mid-1800s as the middle-class child-focused family arose, and I think that muddied the waters a lot in terms of our understanding of the emotional drive behind gift-giving and receiving. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it helps to understand the history behind it to know why we've got generations of expectations and emotions bearing down on us around the holidays.
I actually have a lot of fun with this time of year. I love the hunt for a good deal, crafting and creating gifts, finding something that someone's been looking for -- or something that they didn't know they wanted -- and getting together with family. I enjoy it. But I don't take it too seriously. My family's made something of a game out of picking up hints someone's dropped (whether they meant to or not), sometimes months before Christmas, and creating a wish list for that person around things they've admired or commented on. Sometimes there's a miss, but usually, the result is some crazily creative, welcome gifts of varying monetary value but that carry a lot of emotional value. Or they're just humorous. It's fun. And that's the power my family has given to the whole gifting process.