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How to Reimagine Holiday Gifts This Year

A year unlike any other deserves a new take on what we give and receive.

A new take on holiday gifts
Credit: Getty Images

We often speak metaphorically about gifts. There are spiritual gifts, the gift of parenthood, the gift of time, the gift of love and the gift of a listening ear.

Each new day, we even say, is a gift.

So how can we open gifts we can’t hold?

Never in my lifetime has it felt more important to explore that question. Holiday gift-giving (and receiving) is often a fraught topic, whether financial resources are stretched thin, or the emotional effort required to select thoughtful gifts is overwhelming.

Like everything else this year, hard things are even harder because of the pandemic. And that includes both the stresses and the joys of holiday gifting.

But remember when the Grinch was befuddled that Christmas came despite his grouchiest efforts to steal it? “It came without ribbons,” he famously puzzled. “It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

In that turnaround moment, the Grinch quickly understood that physical gifts are merely manifestations of deeply meaningful, personal feelings. He understood that the game or toy or book or kitchen gadget we wrap up and give someone says, “I feel joy when you are having fun, and this is my way of being part of your happiness.”

That essence—the gratitude, the recognition and the deep connection that underlies every gift choice—is where we can focus if we want to “unwrap” the best of holiday giving this year. Whether or not we send an object or share a (probably virtual) experience with a loved one, we can all support each other’s pursuit of joy, positivity and the simple knowledge that we are loved, seen and valued.


Open the gift of time by seeking out volunteer opportunities in your community.

Open the gift of love by writing a heartfelt note on a card and mailing it to someone who means a lot to you—even if that person lives in your house.

Open the gift of faith by exploring an inspiring text, attending a religious service or thinking about your beliefs in a journal.

Open the gift of each new day by giving yourself permission to start fresh after a hard yesterday.

There are so many gifts to give—and to receive—when we reimagine the very idea of what giving means. What will you open this holiday season?

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