Hey Elderly Aunt, Is it time for a gift-giving truce?

 Hey Elderly Aunt: What kind of gift do you get for a family member who has everything and doesn’t need any more stuff? Is it appropriate to just call for a gift-giving truce and not exchange things?

Heavens to Saint Nick! A gift-giving truce? As in a cessation of gift-giving hostilities? What an interestingly militarist word you have chosen. To the Elderly Aunt, it conjures up images of wrapped packages being fired out of cannons or of Slim Pickens gift-wrapping the bomb he rides  at the end of Dr. StrangeloveHi there!

Believe me, dear reader, she feels your stress. As good citizens of our consumer-driven American economy, we all feel pressured to buy, buy, buy at this time of year. And, sadly, all too many of us—as dedicated (compulsive?) collectors of “stuff”—expect to be bought for. 

If your family member truly is a stuff-worshiper, there’s not much you can do that won’t ruffle their holiday feathers other than buy them another superfluous gewgaw—which obviously ruffles your holiday feathers. Really, such a holiday contretemps is enough to give anyone the bah humbug blues.

Let me ask you: do you like this person? Does this person like you? Or are you both simply bowing before the onus of family expectations (guilt?) that you will exchange holiday gifts with each other.

The Elderly Aunt is not a fan of such duty-gifting. She feels strongly that anything not given to someone else with a glad and willing heart on our part is not a gift as much as cultural manipulation. So if you are merely duty-gifting your relative, then then by all means suggest a gift-giving détente.   

If, however, you are happy to be related to this person, then she suggests you consult your glad heart and come up with ways to demonstrate your affection that doesn’t leave you feeling like a helpless pawn of consumerism. 

To offer examples from the Elderly Aunt’s own glad-hearted gifting experience, she and a relative exchange non-profit contributions in each other’s names. She has also done volunteer work in the name of her well-off relatives. 

Get creative, gentle reader! Figure out a way to fuel both your and your relative’s better natures. Surely holiday gifts—gifts that truly celebrate someone else’s presence in our life—must come from the hearts as well as our pocketbooks. 

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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