Katy’s Korner: Holiday gifts don’t have to come with stress or strings
Happy soon-to-be holidays! It’s the end of my freshman year and my first holiday season in college and I don’t know what to do about gifts for my friends. Do I give them? Who do I give them to? Do I spend money? Do I not spend money? Any insight would be appreciated, thanks!
‘Tis the season—the season of giving, that is. Since it’s your freshman year, you’re probably around 18 years old and just coming into your formative adult years. You have new roles, new dynamics, new freedoms and hand-in-hand, new responsibilities. All of these transitions lend themselves to some stress. In terms of the holiday season social expectations, many people that go to this school come from different backgrounds. You might be used to giving gifts to all of your family members and friends. You might be used to having to pay for them. Maybe you never did gifts with your friends, or your parents would pay for the gifts. Everyone comes into this time of year with different things they expect of their friends and family. Perhaps you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, or do white elephant, or secret Santa, or volunteer at a food pantry or have a multitude of different traditions. With this diversity of expectation in mind, not knowing what to do in terms of gift-giving makes sense.
Many problems can be solved by just a quick, slightly awkward, conversation. If there’s someone you’re close to that you think might deserve or expect a gift before the end of the semester, just ask them what they want to do. No one wants to be the schmuck that shows up empty-handed to a gift exchange, and no one wants to be the loser that doesn’t get one back (despite the insistent repetitions that it’s really okay). It might be awkward to ask if y’all are exchanging gifts but it’s always better to ask before buying. Maybe that person isn’t in the financial position to buy you a comparable gift. Maybe you’d both be happier with handmade gifts, or don’t have time for that business. You might decide that planned quality time is just as meaningful as a gift and all you can sacrifice this finals season. Maybe you both mutually believe that the expectation of gift-exchanging is just a capitalist scheme to cause people to consume more and is inadvertently killing our world with undue waste. This all requires a conversation, though. There’s too many options to just make blind assumptions.
With that being said, when you do have the conversation, try not to break the bank. Be mindful of the financial situations of the people surrounding you. If you can find a way to be money conscious with your friends, do it. If you’re in a tight-knit group, suggest to play white elephant, or secret santa with a price limit on gifts, so that everyone will only be purchasing one gift. Plan a holiday party with more casual friends or a nice night of Netflix holiday movies. Maybe pool you and your friends’ funds and decide what causes to use the money for or send the money to. Coming together to give back to the world outside of your own can be even more impactful than an exchange. This could be a jumping off point in y’all’s relationship where you get past the surface level sharing and dig deeper to discover what matters deeply to both of you.
The point is, everyone has their own expectations and traditions and values, and it’s valuable and deeply interesting to learn what those things are. Part of building relationships in college, and in life in general, is about taking a genuine interest in other human beings. Asking them questions about their hearts, their backgrounds, their thoughts and retaining that information so you can support and love them more fully. Learning what your friends do for the holidays is a small part of that, but it is a possible avenue for deeper connection. Ask your friends what they want to do, and maybe deepen that connection along the way.
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