I'll be the first to admit that in our society we often tend to go overboard with our gift-giving, especially during the Christmas holidays. Many people use Christmas as an opportunity to try to compensate for wrongs or neglect that has happened over the course of the year, and many people try to compensate for their own low sense of self-worth by spending inordinate amounts of money on gifts with the subconscious hope that people will like us more or admire us more if the gifts that we buy impress them enough.
But most of us just love the opportunity to try to figure out the best gift for each person, the gift that will somehow be just perfect and allow that person to have something that's a perfect fit. I love to go to a store and just walk around and find things that aren't expensive that I know someone would like. I love to sit down and try to figure out just what I could make to give to someone to show that person that I somehow know him or her well, that I know what kinds of things he or she likes.
To me, that's the most important part of giving gifts at Christmas, and I spend all year preparing for it. Just how well do I know my step-daughters? Can I go to the store without asking them what they want and find something that will "fit" them well? I can do so only if I pay attention to them all year long and listen to what they have to say about everything--school and friends and music and movies and whatever else they talk about. The same goes for my wife--she talks to me all year long, but how well do I listen? Do I know her well enough to be able to get her or make her just the right present for Christmas? And my co-workers? Can I find a small something that's very inexpensive that they'll like to have? Only if I have a good idea of who they are and what they like.
I know that personally, I'd much rather receive a scarf or a book or a CD that says that a person has thought about me and my tastes than an expensive watch or piece of electronics that says only that someone had money to burn, and they burned it on me. I'd rather see the money go to something much more useful like a soup kitchen or a children's charity than to be "burned" on a gift that I may or may not use.
I don't give out tons of gifts. I don't consider myself to be Santa Claus, and I don't feel that it's my responsibility to make other people "happy" by giving them things. But I do like to share, and I do like to brighten other people's days or moments with a special something. Sometimes that something can be encouragement or a compliment, and sometimes it can be helping out when they need help. At Christmas it can be a small token, a small something that shows that I care about who they are as people.
Giving gifts shouldn't be about trying to make someone happy with material gifts, and it shouldn't be about trying to impress people with our taste or our willingness to spend a lot of money on presents.
To me, the best gifts that I can give are those that say "I know you because you're worth getting to know." And once Christmas is over, I have almost an entire year to prepare for next year, getting to know the people in my life, learning more about who they are and what they like.