Gift giving: the origin, ideas and inspiration

Gift giving: the origin, ideas and inspiration

Today is meant to provide some inspiration on what gifts to give. As well as provide a way to give a ‘hint’ to those in your life buying gifts! Personally, I’m not a gift person – I like giving them, but it feels so strange to receive them. No idea why this is, but it is. Therefore, in the below you will see some non-traditional gifts suggestions. Also, some white elephant gift ideas and a ‘this or that’ section. Including things like concert tickets, a night out and even flight tickets.

In my last post, I talked about the need to buy now due to the supply chain challenges globally. Hand-made things from local shops or friends with Etsy stores also feels more meaningful! For some people, maybe money toward student loans or money toward a brokerage account might be a good option.

For others, buying something related to their hobby, whether that be collecting cards, crafts or something like horseback riding or whitewater rafting. In the past I’ve asked for guitar lessons and piano lessons (haven’t received either yet though!). Either way you look at it, gift giving is meant to be personal and genuine!

Genuine, thoughtful gifts

When starting out the gift giving thought process, it is important to first consider your overall budget. Secondly, write down all the people you will be buying for. Lastly, think about each person individually and what message you would like to send. Perhaps you’ve known the person for some time and already came across something you plan on buying. However, many people get stuck because they are unsure what to buy and worry about disappointing the person.

One of the key’s to gift giving is to make it extremely sentimental or extremely practical. Gifts which are specific to the receiver are simply more meaningful. Whatever you purchase for another, make sure it aligns with their life and will come across as thoughtful!

Story time

The most favorite gifts I’ve ever received were unique to me and clearly thoughtful. This mostly means they were books and coffee related. Other amazing gifts for me, personally: include weekend getaways, planned dinners out at favorite restaurants, or a planned night in with a bottle of wine and steaks to cook. From those who aren’t close by, I’ve loved receiving hand-made gifts. Or those cute, “I’m here” (with a picture of NJ) and “You’re there” (with a picture of North Carolina). At the end of the day, spending time with another person is truly what makes me happy. No material possession could even come close to time spent, in my opinion. Remember that post about me being extroverted? (haha)

White Elephant Anyone? Plus funny story time

We can’t leave this section without talking about the tradition of Dirty Santa, otherwise known as White Elephant. Often done in larger groups and sometimes in the office setting; these gifts are often on the cheaper side and meant to be funny. Because you do not know who will receive the gift, it is a chance to do something more broad.


I will never forget the first time I was involved in the office giving. Assuming it would be more… mmm… let’s say appropriate? Picture it… I put together a bag of coffee beans, a bottle of Jameson and a mug (Irish coffee anyone). Thinking my gift was clever and also generous; I didn’t realize the point of the whole thing. In turn I received a 6 pack with only 5 beers that year. This was the first and last time I participated in Dirty Santa at work.

Other good white elephant gifts include:

  • A throw blanket, hot chocolate and a mug
  • Ingredients to make a fancy drink (my favorite is a greyhound)
  • Local jam, bread or any type of food pairing
  • A plant with a little watering can
  • Coloring book and crayons
  • A LEGO set with house slippers

Why do you give?

Through the process of doing research on the history of gift giving, I found an interesting bit of information:

The act of presenting a gift to another person symbolized a caveman’s ability to support and provide for a family. Making the process very attractive to females! …. Typical gifts among cavemen were teeth and stones, considered keepsakes at the time. 

“The history of gift giving”. Kat Whittingham, 2020.

Gift giving started out as a way to show wealth, ability to support and meant to be keepsakes. As time went on, food and books became popular, specially food which was considered a luxury such as special fruits. According to the same article Native American’s gave gifts to show their status as a gift giver: the more expensive the gift, the wealthier the gift-giver.

Interestingly, in some cultures Santa (Father Christmas) is kept separate from the religious ties to gift-giving a Christmas. Therefore, even non-Christians, for example in the UK still have Santa to bring magic to the children!

Gift giving is said to be a way to formally recognize a connection with someone; and show appreciation toward them in a different more, concrete way.

Think about why you like or don’t like giving gifts. Does it feel like a chore for you? Do you prefer when people ask our right for what they want? Or do you like the thought process behind finding something for them specifically? What are some of the more meaningful gifts you’ve given? Have there been gifts over the years you thought would be well-liked but got the opposite response?

This year, after all we’ve gone through try and put the magic back into gift giving. I personally can’t wait to put some music on, have a hot beverage and wrap gifts!

Gift: This or That

Use this as a hint to your significant other or just do it for fun! I didn’t design it this way, but it turns out most of mine ended up on the left side. I tend to enjoy things that are more involved with spending time together versus anything else ever. This obviously isn’t an exhausted list of potential gifts but is a decent start for ideas!

Screenshot the below and post it to your social. Remember to tag @brighteyedsmiles 🙂

My filled out this or that

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