(photo credit: WIkicommons)
Birthdays and anniversaries can be particularly stressful for couples, when it comes to exchanging presents. The art of gift-giving involves an almost scientific thought-process and a mathematical algorithm designed explicitly to avoid the most dreadful five words in the English language: “It’s the thought that counts.”
When Hanukkah rolls around, the anxiety level shoots up at least eight points on the gift-giving scale to match the length of the celebration.
If you suffer from serious bouts of said anxiety, you can thank our stocking-stuffing neighbors who shared this tradition with us, as it has no Jewish origins.
That’s right… halachically, you have as much obligation to partake in this consumerist custom, as you do to gorge yourself with oil-soaked delicacies.
Still, I encourage you to do both, because after all ‘tis the season!
Of course, I would be irresponsible to send you off into the malls-turned-jungles at this time of the year without some basic survival guidelines.
No, I’m not going to rattle off a generic top ten list of gifts to get your significant other- and I don’t recommend you consult someone else’s list because frankly; I don’t know what your wife likes and if you trust a rambling stranger to tell you, well, apparently, neither do you!
Your gift should be a token of your affection that directly reflects a profound connection with your loved one. In other words, it should show that you are familiar with his or her tastes, or at the very least that you have been an attentive listener and have picked up on the subtle and not-so-subtle hints that have been dropped since the gift-giving incident of ’95, now only bitterly referred to as the “20th anniversary debacle.”
Egocentric gifts that are indirectly gifts to yourself, for example sexy lingerie for a body-conscious wife; or a brand-spanking new lawnmower for the man of the house; are no-nos! They defeat the (somewhat) altruistic purpose of gift giving.
Like I said, the gift is meant to be a token of your affection, and as far as tokens go, it does not necessarily need to break the bank. But it must still demonstrate tremendous generosity. You should note, with great relief that generosity is not directly correlated with the amount of money spent. The equation includes thought, time and spirit - and those should be invested with abandon. Women have the ability to calculate this kind of generosity, sometimes without even unwrapping the box. A romantic home cooked meal trumps a Starbucks gift card. Shop accordingly.
If you want to celebrate the holidays with authentic generosity, find a charity that inspires you and yours and in true Jewish style give tzedaka
. Be it in the form of a big fat check, or a meaningful volunteer experience - this is the gift that keeps giving, and there’s no more opportune time to give it then during the holiday season. Furthermore, tzedaka
is a long-neglected tradition of Hanukkah aching for a revival. Gelt anyone?
A tip from the Tosafot
(medieval commentaries on the Talmud) on this matter: advanced notification of the intention to deliver a gift is de rigeur, especially in the case of two social equals (and I assume you and your loved one fit in that category.) My own interpretation of this is as follows: A surprise is always nice, but not when you aren’t prepared to reciprocate. Casually agree on a mutually enjoyable way of marking the holiday, incorporate each other’s traditions and build new ones; set a price limit to gift purchases and abide by them. Equilibrium preserves harmony, and this isn’t the time to be fighting. After all, nobody wants to spend the holidays alone.
Finally, my cardinal tip of gift-giving, in case you’re afflicted with the procrastinating gene like me: When in doubt or in a pinch, go to your local Bloomingdales, surrender your credit card to the most reasonable looking sales associate and pray for a Hanukkah miracle.
Margaux Chetrit is the founder and president of Three Matches, an international dating agency. Her insights on love and sex are inspired by a career in diplomacy, a panoply of academic degrees and ex-boyfriends. For more of her musings, please visit: www.threematches.com or follow her at www.twitter.com/threematches and www.facebook.com/threematches