’Twas the season of giving not long ago. Family members all over the country made their way into living rooms to celebrate the holidays with loved ones and relax by the fire with a warm cup of eggnog.

For many, however, the days leading up to Christmas were chaotic and filled with last-minute shopping; the procrastinators of the world came out to make their final purchases just in the St. Nick of time. I, for one, had to throw together my Secret Santa gift the night before the class exchange, despite the two weeks’ notice.

Sorry, Yumi. Hope you still liked the candy.

I’ve always struggled with gift giving — for birthdays, holidays or anniversaries, I can never find the right gift. Naturally, the bad gift givers in the world, myself included, fall back on reliable but boring gifts. But here’s my question: Why is gift giving so hard for some people yet so easy for others?

Let’s delve deeper.

To start, some people are “people” people. These are the family members and friends who will hug everyone and chat their ear off for the next hour. Others — especially teenagers — will keep their comfortable, yet uncomfortable, five feet of distance and awkwardly make small talk before escaping to the restroom.

Oddly enough, gift giving is similar. Some people are great gift givers because they aren’t afraid to take the risk of an awkward exchange; they understand people and, more often than not, select the right gift for the right person.

On the other hand, bad gift givers tend to fall back on the three C’s that take no creativity: candy, cards and cash.

Although receiving a thoughtful gift gone awry isn’t the greatest, at least it shows some creativity. The butterfly hatching kit that I received as a sporty tween boy checks that box. Similarly, the San Diego Chargers gear I received five years ago — three sizes too big at the time, mind you — won’t be forgotten because I can still wear it now! I’ll always appreciate someone willing to be creative, even if the result isn’t always successful.

The problem with taking that risk is that some people are satisfied with just candy and gift cards, which can translate to a meaningless cycle of gifts with little to no thought. Even if the giver tries to purchase or create the “perfect gift” for that special someone, there is still the fear of disappointment. In fact, speaking for us bad gift givers, sometimes we’ll be so indecisive that we give nothing.

This is especially unfortunate for the great gift givers of the world who consistently give thoughtful gifts but receive thoughtless ones.

Often, I’ve noticed that people who give the best gifts do so because it is how they show and receive affection; psychologically, they feel the most loved when they receive a gift that took a lot of effort rather than money.

That said, gifts needn’t make or break the holidays. As the saying goes, it’s not what’s under the tree — it’s who’s around it.

The memories that stick with me aren’t of gifts I received but of moments I’ve shared with loved ones — wearing my oversized San Diego Chargers gear.

—By Jackson Crawford

Originally published in the Jan. 15 edition of the Octagon.

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