What Makes a Gift?

This is apparently a far deeper question than I had first perceived. How often do you consider this? Sure, in common parlance a gift is something that we give to another person for free, but apparently there’s more to consider than that.

You see, research shows that the object itself (assuming we’re talking physical gifts which has been a long-standing tradition) is not a gift…necessarily. For example to be food, something has to be intrinsically edible; that is a quality that all food will have. But a gift? There isn’t any intrinsic quality that gifts have. It is the act of giving, the relationship between the giver and the recipient which really makes something a gift. Anything can be a gift, but only when it is given does it become special in the context of the relationship. Jonathan Bruck gives a fantastic explanation: “For example, a photograph is not a gift, but one taken by you and given to a friend instantly takes on new meaning.”*

The great news here is that if anything can be a gift, we can really start to think beyond toys, electronics and video games (all top sellers according to the Wall Street Journal in 2012) or the proverbial ornaments and slippers.

So, what makes a gift is something that speaks to the occasion or relationship that is being honoured and these days there are so many great ways to think about that. Experience gifts provide memories, service gifts provide help and charitable gifts can honour causes dear to hearts.

Conversely, I’m sure at times we’ve all been the recipient of ‘stuff’ rather than gifts; a transaction where we have received, but without any tingling of feeling special. Items received that feel more of a burden than a breath of excitement. Stuff we need to exchange or find a place for, things that don’t work or we don’t need.

The old catch-phrase “It’s the thought that counts” really does resonate when you stop and give thought to why you are giving, who you are giving to and how best you can make that ‘transaction’ transform into a gift.

The best news is that in your search for a gift, you came here and we’ve done lots of the hard work for you to ensure that the gifts presented on the site are sure to be received as just that – gifts, not stuff!

easy. kind. giftastic.

  • The Evolution of Gift Giving, Jonathan Bruck, MA Industrial Design, Central St. Martins, May 2004