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Giving and Receiving

How was your holiday? Ours what unusual and unexpected. We planned to spend Christmas in London, where our first son lives. In mid-December, London was on tier/level 4 lockdown (residents were strictly housebound); therefore, we thought of taking the train or bus to Oxford where it was level 2 (restaurants and shops were opened). We would then meet up with our second son, who lives in Canley in the southwest of Coventry near Warwick University. It was a blessing in disguise that our flight was cancelled the night before our scheduled departure because the next day the British Government included Oxford on its tier 4 list. We would have been stuck in London quarantined in a low-budget hotel without the certainty of returning to France by the first week of January 2021. Instead, we had a virtual family Christmas party on the 25th with carols and quizzes.

We’re still in the period of giving and receiving gifts. So far, what have you given and/or received?

My husband is a football enthusiast and enjoys watching the English Premier and European League; a ticket to one of their matches would have been an easy choice. As sports were televised only due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was more realistic to accompany him in our attic and watch from our bedroom’s skylight the pigeons compete over grains and worms.

What's the perfect gift for me from him? I wanted to see purple (my favourite colour) candles on the hallway leading up to our bedroom and find our bed covered with red roses and heart-shaped white chocolates. After all, red and white were the colour motifs during our church wedding. Everyone was in red and white apparel, including the pastor. There was a five-layer white cake with red cupcakes as giveaways.

I appreciate any gift from friends. If I don't fancy it, I'll pass this on to my family who wants it or to my favourite charity. Such action is good for my pockets and planet. Unwanted gifts that are not regifted or do not end up in charity shops find a home in landfills and tips that contributes to environmental problems. In developing countries, regifting is a welcomed necessity. Of course, regifting has nay-sayers; they think that those who regift are stingy and disrespectful. Charities sell donated items, and the money is used to help the needy.

Gift-giving during the December-January period is cultural. It can be a way of showing affection, fondness or gratefulness. It does not need to involve a big amount. Research studies and surveys show that expensive gifts are not always appreciated; for instance, many receivers associate handmade items with kindness and positivism.

There is a social pressure to reciprocate; when we receive a gift, we give one in return. Does this equate with happiness? Isn’t it better to give than to receive? What is the best present? Isn’t it time that family and friends spend with us (talking on the phone or online when it is impossible to do so physically)?

In 2020, we lurched from pandemic and insecurity to division and isolation. In 2021, let us take stock of our lives and find the gift of wonder and joy in those around us. Happy New Year!

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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