7 Reasons To Give Gifts On Birthdays

Giving gifts on birthdays is a universal custom all around the world. It’s such a normal part of birthdays and birthday celebrations today.

Why do people give birthday gifts? How is the act of giving presents important on birthdays?

Lavender Gift Wrapping (1)

Birthdays symbolise the anniversary you came to this world. They mark the significance of your existence, contributions and unique personality – and perhaps what others have sacrificed for you, which you may not always agree with.

When someone’s birthday approaches, you might start thinking of something to get them. It could be a big or small present, with a bit of thought or a great deal of thought put into it.

People give birthday gifts for different reasons, for reasons personal and impersonal. Cultural beliefs and social contexts are often factors why some are keen on gifts to recognise birthday occasions. Who the birthday person is and how they have impacted your life are also influential factors.

Here are some reasons why people give gifts on birthdays.

1. Tradition

Giving presents to someone on their special day is a longstanding historical tradition in some families and generations. It may be tied to bigger standing beliefs that have quite some importance. It’s only natural to continue giving gifts on birthdays according to sacrosanct conventions, respecting established hierarchies and what has always been.

Dating back to ancient times, the Romans marked their birthdays and other’s birthdays with lavish banquets and gift giving. Scholarly editor Kathryn Argetsinger discusses this in her Birthday Rituals paper: back then such birthday celebrations intersect between the spheres of social relations and Roman cult practices.

As Argetsinger also writes, the exchange of items or offerings (such as birthday poems) is a possible means to observe one’s personal genius or Juno on their birthday. Similarly, in Ancient Egypt pharaohs were presented with special gifts commemorating their ‘becoming birth of God’ day, and this giving tradition is still common practice among Egyptians on their birthdays today.

As such, birthday gifting traditionally is a marker of importance and status. Chinese culture celebrates certain ages, with red packets common gifts for younger birthdays to attract abundance and the gift of large banquets for someone aged 60 to honour a full life cycle.

Lavender Gift Wrapping (2)

2. Ward off evil spirits

Alongside tradition, gift giving on birthdays is believed to offer protection and strength. During Ancient Greek civilisation, people believed evil spirits haunted the birthday person so they would celebrate and gift gifts as blessings to ward off these energies.

As Ralph and Adeline Linton write in their book The Lore of Birthdays, the idea of birthday wishes was rooted in magic. They suggest positive birthday wishes bring good fortune around you and your personal spirits on your birthday.

3. Love, care and appreciation

Perhaps you give someone a birthday gift to tell them that their existence is important to you. You want them to know you love, care and appreciate them, and they matter to you and have a place in your life after yet another year – especially if you are close to them.

4. Social pressure

You might feel peer pressured into giving the birthday person a gift when others are giving gifts, giving for the sake of giving. This could be the case if you’re part of a social or work group and have to keep up appearances and pleasantries to get along with others.

In the past I had some colleagues who liked celebrating their birthday at work. Usually there’d be an afternoon tea for the birthday person. You’d either have to chip in a few dollars for a gift or bring a snack to the party.

If someone throws a big birthday party with a long guest list and you’re invited, it’s generally polite to bring something for them. After all, there’s quite a bit of effort that goes into putting together a birthday party for people to enjoy.

Lavender Gift Wrapping (3)

5. Mark milestones

You might give someone a birthday gift to celebrate how far they’ve come and acknowledge what they achieved over the past year. Or it could’ve been a challenging year for them and you want them to have a treat.

As mentioned previously, in Chinese culture when someone is mature, they’re considered wiser. Presenting a gift to a mature Chinese person on their birthday is a way to honour their wisdom acquired so to speak.

6. To help someone out

Sometimes you just want someone to have a good day on their birthday. You’re inclined to give them the gift of a helping hand. You offer to do them a favour as you want to make their life easier on their birthday, showing up for them.

After all, birthdays might be important to you and you like the feeling that comes with celebrating your birthday – and you want others to feel the same good feeling as well.

Green Gift Wrapping

7. Connection

You give a birthday gift because you want to build or maintain a connection in your life. Perhaps you benefit from this connection, or you and the birthday person mutually share a deep relationship together. So a birthday gift is a way to show this relationship is important to you year after year.

*  *  *

Most of the time you don’t give a stranger a gift on their birthday. You generally know the birthday person in the first place.

As such, birthday gift giving is often an act of intimacy. When you put careful thought into a birthday gift, you prioritise the birthday person and another year of their existence as a part of your life. Your relationship with them is not an unforgettable, mundane transaction but a meaningful one.

The act of gift giving is arguably tied to the construction of social intimate identities of yourself and others. As the giver you unconsciously project your personality and an imagination of who the recipient is onto your chosen gift. The person receiving it has a choice of accepting this identity projection on them. Sociologist Marcus Mauss writes in his book The Gift that gifting is an expression, describing a gift as a ‘total social fact’ imbued with spiritual mechanisms.

Similarly in his paper The Social Psychology of the Gift, psychologist Barry Schwartz suggests the presentation of a gift is an imposition of identity:

‘Such gifts reveal an important secret: the idea which the recipient evokes in the imagination of the giver.’

Thank You Gift

As I wrote in 7 Reasons To Not Celebrate Your Birthday, not everyone is keen on birthday attention. Some don’t want birthday gifts and probably don’t appreciate your generous gift gesture, which can turn out to be a waste of gift giving.

Giving presents on birthdays these days is certainly not compulsory. Personally I respect people when they say they don’t want anything on their birthday and don’t argue with them, and don’t get them a present. Instead I’d spend some time with them around their solar return. It’s a subtle way on my part to show them they are important to me.

There are different kinds of birthday gifts, tangible and intangible. You could gift a new phone or a box of chocolates, or an experience such as a membership pass or voucher. The closer you are to the birthday person, you are more likely to put more thought into how they want to celebrate their birthday (or not) and their birthday gift.

When you give someone a birthday gift, you often think about their personality. You may wonder if the gift(s) you have in mind will match their personality and tastes. Or if it’s too pricey or extravagant for their liking. When coming up with a birthday gift for someone, it can be a test of how well you know them – and how much they matter to you.

Just as it’s a personal thing for someone to receive a birthday gift, it’s also a personal thing for you when you give someone a birthday gift.

Do you or don’t you give birthday gifts?

166 thoughts on “7 Reasons To Give Gifts On Birthdays

  1. I absolutely give on birthdays, whether homemade crafts, something thoughtfully-bought, or both. Even though I know of people who care less about celebrating their birthdays as they get older year after year, I’m a firm believer in always celebrating; after all, it’s a big deal to know that you’ve gone through another year of changes, so why not relish that? Celebrating could be as simple as a small gift and cake at home, or as big as a fancy dinner or vacation!

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    • Although I am not big on birthday celebrations myself, I like your positive take on birthdays, Rebecca. A lot can happen in a year, and birthdays are a way to look back and as you said, relish the changes and what you’ve gone through.

      Cake. Cake is amazing. And a birthday is a good excuse to have some cake!

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  2. I find I like birthdays less as I get older, but sometimes any excuse is nice to have a party and get together with friends.

    It can be very stressful thinking of presents though. That’s why I like the tradition of just cash in an envelope!

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  3. Excellent post my friend! I certainly prefer to give than receive however I think it is nice to gift experiences over material possessions. Maybe taking somebody out for dinner or a movie ticket or a massage is nicer than cluttering their homes with things. If I do get them a physical gift, I try to make sure it is useful and come in handy often!

    Let’s do dumplings soon! x

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    • Thank you so much! You are so kind, prefer to give than to receive. I agree, experiences make great gifts, especially the ones when you can spend time together. Hope to catch up with you at some point my friend! Miss you and hope you are well 💖

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  4. Beautifully written article, Mabel. I still buy birthday presents and spend time ahead to
    steer conversation to see what the person really would like. My view of birthday coincide a lot with your.
    I also love the feeling of family and friends around me on my birthday , be it in real life
    or by phone and cards.
    It is interesting to read about backgrounds from other and older traditions. Yes, an honour.
    😊🎶🌈.

    Miriam

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    • Thank you for your kind words, Delphini. That is very nice of you to buy birthday presents for the people around you, and try to find out what they would really like. It reminds me of birthday and gift lists (which are also pretty common for Christmas). There really is so much to hear and learn about birthdays from different backgrounds and places. I hope you get to spend many more birthdays with friends and family and lots of love all round – and you enjoy every moment and make great memories 💕😊

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  5. A very thought-provoking post, Mabel. I’ve given gifts to people with who I thought I had a friendly connection, only for them to become then distant. What I thought was a friendly gesture was taken as an intrusion. I live and learn.

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    • I am sorry to hear that some of your gifts were not well received. In these situations you learn those who are really there for you.

      I really like the blue shirt you currently have in your profile picture. It looks like we are matching 😄

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  6. There is a universality about birthday celebrations, as well as slight variances in the manner of its celebration across cultures. At the level of juveniles, during my times that is, it ranged from a morning visit to the nearby temple, wearing new clothes and a birthday feast, of purely vegetarian dishes, with friends and relatives conveying greetings accompanied mostly by gifts. As one advances in years, the practice of gifting articles recedes and only the celebratory factor remains. Gifting is sometimes still retained by way of according an experience by sponsoring lunch or dinner or a pilgrimage or a visit to some exotic destination. Notably, blowing out lit candles on a cake and cutting it, is not part of Indian culture. How are birthdays celebrated in Chinese societies?

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    • Thank you for sharing how birthdays are celebrated in your culture, Raj. I really enjoyed reading your reflection and recollections. It is interesting to hear that birthday gifting receded as you grew wiser – and in a way, I am guessing birthdays got quieter but no less meaningful for you, perhaps even more meaningful and thoughtful. Very interesting to hear that blowing out candles and cutting cake is not a part of Indian culture. Maybe that is more of a Western thing.

      In Chinese culture, people do like to make a fuss around birthdays. It’s a big deal with a child turns one and there is almost always a party for the child – usually a birthday in bright colours and clothes such as red and yellow. Having cake on birthdays in Chinese culture is also quite popular. Growing up in Malaysia, cake shops selling birthday cakes were very common and a lot of my Chinese relatives looked forward to eating birthday cake – be it theirs or someone else’s cake.

      Hope you are doing well over there, Raj. Take care.

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  7. Birthdays were huge when I was a kid! Doughnuts, cake, and more attention than my siblings.

    It took me years to really understand that my Chinese American husband just doesn’t look at birthdays and holidays the same way. Thanks to watching way too much American TV, he knows about gifts and the traditions, but he really just doesn’t see the point. He wouldn’t care if we didn’t celebrate his birthday (although he does like cake!) and has a hard time grasping why I was devastated the year he “didn’t bother” with a Christmas present.

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    • It really did sound like you had huge birthdays as a kid. When you mentioned there were doughnuts and cake, somehow I thought you had doughnut cake.

      I am like your husband, don’t mind not spending birthdays. But both giving and receiving presents is a lovely thing on your birthday, and even at Christmas – it’s always the thought that counts.

      Has Andy always spoiled Baby D?

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  8. This is an interesting exploration Mabel. There are many layers to why and how we express care for others through gift-giving. I like your summary of social connection as the main reason. I used to give more gifts, but have mostly stopped due to limited funds and people I care deeply for. I’ve probably diminished myself by putting a damper on this form of giving and connecting.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind reflection, Brad. You are spot on in that there are many layers to the why and how of gift giving. I am sure your friends value you for who you are, irregardless if you have given less gifts over the years. I’ve found myself in this situation too – and those who are there for us will understand where you are coming from.

      Hope all is well over there, Brad 🙂

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  9. A number of people I know ask the giver to make a donation to the birthday person’s favoured foundation/non-profit organization. I also did this when I was teaching as I felt guilty receiving so many gifts from students—gifts I didn’t need when there were many others who had little.

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    • That is very thoughtful of you to say, Mallee. There are indeed many others who had little. If we are able to receive a gift from someone, that is a privilege. Giving to the birthday person’s favoured non-profit organisation sounds is a thoughtful gesture.

      I am sure your students meant well when they gave you gifts 🙂

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  10. Lovely post Mabel. I like the tradition of giving gifts but didn’t know that they could ward off evil spirits! Some gifts are inspired from social obligations but some are given out of love… those are the real ones. Gifts sound more exciting to children, the charm keeps wearing off with age. The best gifts are given by my husband. Love always wins. 😊

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    • Thanks, Balroop. So agree that gifts given out of love are the best kinds of gifts, especially if they are well thought out and gifts you actually cherish. I think you may be right about gifts being more exciting for children. Children see the world through curious eyes and even a small gift is enough to make their day. I hope your husband keeps giving you the best gifts. You are very lucky to have a thoughtful husband 🎁💕😊

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  11. Hi Mabel, Nice to hear from you. I love giving other people gifts on my birthday, especially family. The history of birthday giving of gifts is fascinating throughout cultures. I learned about the red packets from friends. I agree how a birthday gift is an act of intimacy. As you point out, it is a good idea to be sensitive to the individual recipient and whether they appreciate a gift.

    I just had a ‘special’ birthday and I find it a privilege to grow older each year. I also believe every birthday is special. An excellent post, that came just in time for my birthday, Mabel.❤️

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    • It is lovely to hear from you too, Erica. It is very kind of you to want and love giving gifts to others on your birthday. It must be a nice surprise for the gift recipients ❤️

      Yes, some people might not appreciate a birthday gift. When in doubt, best to ask the person about their birthday and if they would be open to a gift.

      Happy belated Birthday. I hope it was a good one and it was filled with lots of love. May you have a wonderful year ahead 🎁🎉💕

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  12. Love this post Mabel 🙂
    I don’t give gifts outside of the family nowadays, unless it is marking a ‘significant’ year (21, 50 etc). Our son always gets a gift, sometimes it is what we call a care package – groceries, undies, socks, maybe a bottle of wine, tShirt or a jumper. He is thoughtful enough to say he really appreciates the gift, HaHa.
    I was always a little bit annoyed with the whole peer group pressure to chip in for a work colleagues birthday. I try to get along with everybody but sometimes it is just too much work and giving that person anything always grated. I was always happier to go with the plate of cakes or other food. Have fun and stay cool Mabel 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for liking this post, Andy. It means a lot 🙂 That is so thoughtful that you give your son a care package each year – care packages never really go out of fashion.

      I second you on birthday gifting for work colleagues. Much prefer to chip in a plate of food or snack especially if I don’t know the colleague very well. You have fun, Andy. You stay cool too 😎

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  13. I really enjoy giving or making gifts for my loved ones but rarely enjoy receiving them. Some of it has to do with unhappy memories of birthdays as a child. Nowadays it is just about not needing or wanting anything (other than a card). That said, I always write and thank someone for thinking about me on my birthday. My husband is driven to distraction by me not wanting gifts. He would love to gift me jewelry but I don’t even wear my wedding ring except on special occasions. I tell him he is lucky having such a cheap date! Great post about birthdays and has made me think more deeply about them.

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    • It is very kind of you to give and make gifts for your loved ones, Kerry. I am sure all of them appreciate your gestures especially the handmade gifts. I think writing someone a thank you note to acknowledge those who think of you on your birthday. These days everyone communicates through social media so writing offers all the more a personal, thoughtful touch.

      Your husband is very kind to want to gift you things like jewelry. Maybe one day he will get his way and you will accept a jewelry gift 😀

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      • Thank you, Mabel. I do have a small drawer full of jewelry, some inherited, but most from my husband. I do enjoy wearing them on special occasions. My friend recently told me that her niece thanked her by text for a large check for her new house… Young people today!!

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        • Aha, so you do have some jewelry and mostly from Teddy. May he try to give you jewelry again, or maybe something much more thoughtful. The stakes are high 😀 Your friend’s niece is very lucky to get some help with her house. Such a generous gift by your friend ❤

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  14. I do for some, and I don’t for others, we seem similar in that way. Beautifully written, Mabel, you always think of the best subjects!

    So I find it interesting that you say people will give gifts to elderly Chinese people. I wonder if that is a Cantonese Chinese custom mostly? Forgive my ignorance, if I am incorrect. I have a mainland Chinese friend from Beijing who, after spending many years alone and raising a daughter here in the US, married a much younger woman. He brought her to visit when we lived in Hawaii. It took me a few days to understand that they were actually there are on their honeymoon!

    When he asked me if we could go into the ‘city’ one day, as she was from Beijing and staying in the country with us was freaking her out. Too quiet! I took them into the touristy areas, and we chatted the whole way. I asked him when her birthday was, and he had to ask her, even though they had been dating when he visited China for eight years. I told him I thought this was a bit strange, and he said, “we Chinese don’t celebrate birthdays or many holidays. The big event is Chinese new year.”

    So I got to learn something else I didn’t know about his culture. He never did say they were with us on their honeymoon, but I suspect that’s exactly why they came to Hawaii. They had gotten married a short time before.

    So live and learn! 💜💜💜

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  15. These are all great reasons, Mabel. And funnily enough, I think we sometimes forget why we give gifts because we’re maybe going through the motions. There are some people I have known, who put too much emphasis on receiving gifts. They didn’t respect that some people can’t afford to keep up with the expensive gift giving and then it took the fun out of the ritual of birthday gifts. I think the cards and messages in those are more memorable than the gift itself 🙂 I like how you did the flipside of your older post. Great idea. Always fun to explore topics here, Mabel.

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    • That is such a good point, Lisa, that we sometimes forgot why we give gifts, just going through the motions. And also another good point on emphasising receiving gifts. Times these days are tough for many, so gift giving may not be on everyone’s minds.

      Like you, I feel written messages can be much more memorable. In today’s digital age, a written note can be so meaningful. Thank you for remember my older post on birthdays, Lisa. You are very kind 🙂

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  16. This is a great post, Mabel. I hadn’t known that the custom was practiced in ancient Rome and Egypt. And that it was also associated with magic.

    My attitude about birthdays is that they’re a way to celebrate the fact that someone was born with a “Happy birthday” or a card, a gift for someone who is special to me. Young children like to be the center of attention once a year on their “special day.” Everyone deserves to be the singled out and celebrated once a year, especially children.

    My late husband used to say that the Chinese didn’t celebrate birthdays unless it was to give thanks to one’s parents for giving them life. I think, though, his family’s attitude may have been related to the fact that he was a child during the Japanese invasion and occupation of his city. His father fought the Japanese and then the Communists for eleven years. Maybe to his father, birthday celebrations seemed frivolous.

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    • Thanks, Nicki. There is much to be talked about birthdays and the celebrations and gifting that goes with it. It’s interesting to see how different cultures see birthday gift giving – and I think giving gifts to ward off spirits is fascinating.

      That is a good point on children wanting to be the centre of attention on their birthday. I think that is so true as children like to have fun and tend to get excited with presents. Opening a present is such an exciting event for many children.

      I think your husband has a point, and past experiences can shape one’s attitudes towards birthday celebrations. Usually there tends to be a purpose behind birthday celebrations. Maybe that’s why in some Chinese families celebrate certain ages. In my Chinese family we tend to celebrate mature ages and (pre-COVID) we try to get family and extended family together for celebrations.

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    • That is very kind of you to give gifts, Bette. So agree with you that the best gifts are the intangible ones on any given day, such as time spent with friends and family. Hope you had a good weekend and a good week ahead 💕

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  17. The interesting thing about birthdays here in Thailand is it’s a Western concept that has been newly adopted. I think this is the same in Cambodia, too, but hard to say if this includes all of SEA, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    One of my Chinese students (he lives in China) didn’t celebrate his birthday this year and it made me wonder if he usually does. He only turned 14 but told his parents to “save their money”. Can you imagine? 😛

    At this point in my life, I usually don’t give gifts or receive them. I’d rather pay for someone’s dinner or an experience like that. My husband though is sweet (and smart) enough to give me something for my HBD and Valentines 😛

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    • That is so interesting to hear that in Thailand birthdays are an adopted Western concept. I guess for some people, birthdays haven’t been a big deal in their lives or where they live.

      Your student sounds so sensible. But at the same time, he also deserves some fun and maybe a treat on his birthday – or any other day. Some people and cultures appreciate and celebrate things differently – it’s not always about themselves as they like to think.

      Your husband is really thoughtful to give you gifts on your birthday and Valentine’s Day. So spoilt but do savour the gifts 😛 Like you, I do like paying for someone’s dinner or experience and many of my friends really appreciate that. You know, you just appreciate money and free when you get older 😀

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  18. I’ve been away from blogging for a while, and just checked back in — I’m so glad to see you are still blogging, and read your post with interest. I had never thought to research the history of birthday giving!
    I am old enough to quit having birthdays, but I still love finding cards to send, and also finding gifts for those I’m closest too. But these days everyone is minimalist enough that giving ‘things’ has morphed into giving attention, or something that can be consumed — yes, CAKE!

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    • It is so lovely to see you, Sandy. I visited your blog a while ago and wondered where you are. How are you?

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. It is so kind of you to send cards and gifts to those who matter to you. It can be hard to give someone a gift if they are selective of what they keep in their lives. But yes, cake. Cake is amazing and a good excuse to have a birthday if you like 😊

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  19. An interesting subject this week Mabel. Here on our little island we ladies have decided to stop giving each other gifts. Instead we started our own charitable foundation and make a donation in each others’ names to recognize important events and as a thank you gift for things like dinner invitations or parties. Our money is better spent on helping others and we still feel honored and appreciated when we are so gifted. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people tried such an approach?

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    • Thanks, Tina. You and your friends have a very thoughtful approach when it comes to gifting. Very kind of all of you to want to spend your money and time helping others on occasions. I agree, it is a great approach as so many of us are privileged in so many ways. Others are not as lucky and a small gesture can go a long way for them. If we could all think and look out for others instead of focusing on ourselves, the world would be better off 😊

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  20. Indeed Mabel, lovely perspective, there are so many dimensions to our birthday celebrations and top of it, the birthdays have their shades of beauty from each culture, and also over time it has undergone such changes as new ways of looking at life and the way we are living life. Occasions are what we all look for and we have created festivals as part of extending the culture of creating occasions to make things in life lively and something more to look at beyond the routines of daily life. No doubt that is an important day for us and it is the near and dear ones when can only make it special, and we all crave for love and appreciation, and something to cherish, and when we are all together for such a special occasion, understandably so life gets it colorful manifestation.

    As so beautifully put, there is a traditional and there is a modern dimension to the celebration of our birthday, going to temple or church is one such tradition continues in most culture but with changing times the new ways of celebration has taken over the pious customary celebration. Cake and gift has become synonymous with birthday and no birthday is over without cutting the cake, and having the gift on our side, who doesn’t like to get surprised and birthday becomes the perfect occasion get those pleasant surprises. Things just didn’t stop there, gift has gone too far and we have such expensive gift that gets given which then starts a competitive and comparative fight to be better than the other, unfortunately there is no such thing, we invariably get caught in a vicious cycle of gifting where the amount matters not the value of gifting itself. We need to get together and party with close friends but we no more enjoy the true essence of such party as it has become so pretentious in its depiction.

    To make matter worse, we have the Social Media out there. We are part of so many different groups and we have so many different friends to acquaintance, and we get into that ritual of wishing as the dates keep popping up, most of them we don’t know but being part of group we have to do what the group member does, and there is no meaning, we just do it. Also, it appears that big things are happening in other’s life, the celebration and we are being left out, we start to feel bad about it and we are then get caught in a loop, we feel dejected and get into a misery of thought. Just a celebration out there, and see what is happening to us. In fact we have stopped reflecting on our thoughts and we have started to mirroring what is happening in other’s life…

    Hope everything fine Mabel, its been long time. It is always great to be back here. Take Care!!!
    😀

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    • It is lovely to see you, Nihar. Thank you for such a reflective comment. You said it very well when you said, ‘birthdays have their shades of beauty from each culture’. This is so true given that birthdays are celebrated differently and each of us have different takes and wants on how to spend our birthdays – some want a festival for a birthday and others more low key. Yes, those who matter to us can make the day special even if we insist we don’t want to celebrate. That’s the beauty of birthdays, to receive love and see who are there for us. It’s quite something when someone decides to make your birthday special for you.

      You are spot on again in that cake and gifts are synonymous with birthday. Even if it’s not cake, it might be some other food such as a food that we like or have always eaten. Also, a really good cake can be hard to come by and I am sure you can agree on that 😀 It is so true gifting can be so competitive. If someone gives you a birthday gift, people see it as polite that you should gift them back something of equal value on their birthday. As you said, this can become a vicious cycle and can result in meaningless gifting and pretentious partying – which does no one any favours.

      Again you bring up another point on social media reminding us of birthdays and special occasions. On one hand, it can be handy to have social media reminding us of birthdays as well, we have so many things to remember in life already. But on the other hand, this can encourage us into wishing each us Happy Birthday just for the sake of it with little meaning behind it. Seeing other people’s birthday celebration can indeed make us feel left out, and worse, left us questioning why aren’t we like them and celebrating birthdays as they are.

      All is well over here, Nihar. It has been a while. Hope you are well too. Looking over to coming over to yours soon 😀

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      • Always a pleasure to be back here and reading your thought provoking topics. You bring so much nuanced perspective to every topic that are generally taken for granted but hidden within it multiple layers of wisdom, someone need to have the passion and the purpose to get there, and bring out the best. You always do so with such panache.

        Indeed, birthdays are special days for each one of us but instead making our day count with our own self and with those who are really close near and dear ones, we get into that pompous celebration mode which we want to showcase to the world, and there is a market for every such occasion and there are hawk eyes marketers waiting in the wings to pounce on us, and we are all susceptible to such temptation, we want to get recognized, we want to get visibility and we want to stand out but we take every such thing too far, and we even don’t realize where we have crossed the line and lost the plot for celebration and became a puppet in the hands of advertisement…

        In fact we can make everyday a special day and we needn’t have to wait for the D-day to celebrate, it is all in the way we want to see the world and the way we want to create that mini world for our own self. The joy of life is there everywhere and we need to just see, the joy of life is there in the little things and we need to climb down from the ivory tower and smell the fragrance of the soil by being grounded.

        Mabel, thanks as always for such lovely response, and every time I come here I have new to learn and so much to take away.
        Take Care !!!
        😀

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        • Again Nihar you hit the nail on the head describing how quite a few of us feel about birthdays, getting into ‘pompous celebration mode’ to celebrate their birthdays. I am sure you and I can agree that there is nothing wrong with having big birthday celebrations and making it all about oneself on your birthday. But as you alluded to, there is always a downside to wanting to be recognised and standing out for the glory. When we are so caught up celebrating ourselves, we might miss the bigger picture about things that truly matter in life. For me, I rather be eating and sharing cake with those who I love as opposed to have a big party where I get a hundred gifts.

          You are so right. We don’t need to wait just for our birthday to celebrate. Any day is worth celebrating just like we can eat cake in moderation any day we like. There is much to be seen and felt down on the ground and in reality, much to be appreciated of nature and what is around us. In other ways, we have so much to be thankful for and every day itself is a gift.

          That is very kind of you to say about my writing and work, Nihar. I am humbled you call my work ‘nuanced perspective’ with multiple layers of wisdom, and with such penache 😀 Thank you so much.

          Hope your week is going well, Nihar. So much happening around the world and things so uncertain, and please take care 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          • Indeed Mabel, nothing wrong in celebration and we can have the way we want and it can be grand as well but one shouldn’t miss out the essence of that special celebration. It is just that we get so carried away with the grandeur of celebration that we tend to miss the very purpose for which we are celebrating and what makes it so special, it is so much on us. It is one such occasion where we can “have the cake and eat it too”…isn’t it something applies so perfectly to tis very occasion that we call it so special.

            Just that we go so much on the track of tradition of gift giving and taking, we miss the value of that very act of gifting and get into the modern and the cost of the gift, once again we are swayed by the glitter and miss the gold that is hidden within, may not be the real gold, but it is no less precious as that of gold. All that glitter isn’t gold and those that don’t glitter don’t lose its value which counts more than the amount that gets tagged to a product.

            All fine this side Mabel, hope everything equally well your side. You too take care of yourself, yes these are trying and testing times for all of us. Have a lovely week ahead and stay safe.
            😀

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            • Yes, we can certainly get carried away with the grandeur and put the purpose of the celebration away from our minds. Celebration makes us feel good. But more often than not when we realise the purpose, people and support around us, that will make us feel even more better and that feeling will stay with us for a while. Birthdays are good to have cake, and eating cake appreciating the bigger picture is a great moment.

              Again you put it so well, swayed by the glitter and miss the gold when it comes to gift giving without much intention. Glitter isn’t all that bad, agree with that. Glitter is precious and worthwhile and can serve us, but the gold that is often unseen, hard to find and comes from within is probably what will have the most significance on us in the long run.

              All is okay with me over here. We are in yet another lockdown. Not the most ideal situation for many of us here, but we are all trying to make the most of it. Take care over there 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes Mabel we can explore any topic. It is always interesting to take up such a simple subject and have so many dimensions to analyze. That’s the beauty of good conversation and having nurtured multiple perspective we enjoy exchanging thoughts and sharing ideas. There is so much in every topic we dwell provided we have the curiosity to know and the joy to participate in expanding our knowledge.

                Still intermittent lockdown is going on here, since the second wave was terrible, people are worried though things have started to open up, still long way to go.
                You too take care and stay safe. 😀

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                • Exactly. A simple topic can be analysed and nurtured, and that can bring about good conversation and connections. Curiosity can bring us far and in turn, we learn and grow.

                  Hope things get better where you are soon. It’s the weekend and looking forward to visiting you soon, Nihar. Have a good weekend 😀

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  21. The gifts I’d give my friends are gifts from travel like candy. Birthday gifts — with friends no and I don’t expect gifts back. I guess baking a birthday cake for a friend counts as a gift. For a kid’s birthday I’m inclined to though it goes against my “experience, not things” mantra. I think that’s hard to teach a kid. At home, we were intentional on NOT having a lot of stuff for our kid.

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    • That’s so lovely when you travel you bring back candy for your friends. Hope they are popular with your friends 😀

      Kids tend to want…a lot of things and they can demand for them. It’s good you are encouraging experiences for your kid. Hopefully your kid enjoys the experiences you suggest 😊

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      • Actually it’s more like adults (namely those who are parents) who are shocked she does not have a lot of toys. I kind of feel the adults enable the kid’s consumerism too.

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        • That’s true, adults can enable their kids’ consumerism. Normally you see this when a child has a birthday (or Christmas) and extended family are quick to shower the child with gifts. I do think educational gifts such as books to kid would be okay 🙂

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  22. I’m a bit of a grinch here. I don’t buy birthday gifts very often, although if I think of something that the person would like, I gift it even if it’s not their birthday xD These past years it’s been difficult to get gifts for my husband. He already has everything and when we were back in Suzhou I couldn’t even plan an “experience” kind of thing as he was always very busy and would have unplanned meetings all the time. For me birthday, he normally gets me flowers and chocolates, but if he didn’t I wouldn’t get mad (it’s nice to get them, though).

    My son is turning 3 on the 31st and he has a gift list. I hope he doesn’t expect to receive every single item on it, because it’s not going to happen, hahaha. He will have a cake too, of course, and I will ask for a few days off around the date.

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    • Haha you can be a grinch if you like when it comes to birthday gifts. It saves you money 😀 That is so nice of your husband to always give you birthday gifts (chocolate!). And thoughtful of you to try to do something nice with him on his birthday even if he is busy.

      Ohhhh many kids will be kids and your son will probably be expecting to get everything on his gift list 😄 Make sure you have some cake for yourself!

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  23. The older I get the more I want to celebrate my birthday and the privilege of growing older. That doesn’t mean gifts as much as celebrating by surfing the day, or the week, even better, or the month, the best! Taking a trip for my bday has always been the best present.

    I’ll buy gifts for my children and my mom for the most part…and they can be small token items or more significant ones to improve quality of life.

    Interesting article Mabel as always!

    Peta

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    • That is lovely to hear you like celebrating your birthday and enjoy doing it as you get older, Peta. Taking a trip for your birthday sounds like such a treat – in a way a gift of an experience to yourself each year.

      Very kind of you to give your children and mom gifts for their birthday. I am sure they appreciate the tokens, no matter how big or small.

      Take care, Peta, and Ben too. Safe travels 💕

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  24. Birthdays always remind me that I have a day that is all mine.
    I celebrate the entire month doing things that I usually dont have time for or dont’ get to do.
    It can be a walk at a park I’ve been meaning to go to or a picnic lunch, things like that.
    Gifts aren’t important to making me feel like I’m celebrating. Of course, I’m older. I think when
    I was younger some monetary gift would have been helpful. LOL
    Thought proviking article, Mabel. Stay safe and Stay well … Isadora 😎

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    • Good that you see your birthday as a day for yourself – for yourself to rest and recharge, and connect with who you are. Taking time for ourselves is so important.

      Money is always a great idea for a birthday gift lol. But yes, like you these days I don’t need gifts for my birthday and rather just take it easy and enjoy myself.

      Thank you for your kind words and wishes, Isadora. You stay safe too and enjoy your summer 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  25. As time goes by we focus less on gifts than we used to, but it’s always nice to receive a present, or to give something special to someone you love. Pre-Covid my favourite gift was a few days away somewhere. I often had to prompt my husband, though!

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  26. Yes, I do give birthday gifts, but always ask the person what they want, Mabel. Then I usually also add a little surprise gift as well.

    As for me, I no longer accept birthday gifts. Instead, I ask people to donate the money they would have spent on me to a charity of their choice. I don’t know whether they do or not, but I like to think that money that would have been spent on something I didn’t need will go to a good cause. I’ll be doing the same this Christmas.

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    • It is very kind of you to ask someone what birthday gift they want, match their wishes and then add a little extra surprise. Your friends and family must appreciate your kind thoughts, and truly appreciate it when they get a birthday gift from you.

      That is also very thoughtful of you to ask well-wishers to donate to a charity instead of giving you birthday and Christmas gifts. Like you, I don’t like ending up with a gift that doesn’t suit my taste or I have no use of. Hope others take your lead and be more intentional about gift giving.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I only ask them because I never want to buy a birthday gift that the recipient doesn’t want, which means I’ve wasted my money, Mabel. I much rather buy a gift somebody wants. The small surprise gift is usually chocolates, their favourite shower gel, a gift card or a household plant.
        I used to sell my unwanted gifts on eBay and donate the money to charity. But now I prefer the person buying the gift to donate to a charity of their choice. It’s a win-win situation.

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        • Chocolates as a small surprise gift sounds like a great idea. I also like the idea of a gift card or a household plant – very practical and the recipient is more than likely to get some use out of it.

          I have also sold unwanted gifts on eBay and hope they found a good home. Hope your friends do donate to charity when you encourage them to instead of giving you a gift 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  27. An interesting post as usual, Mabel. I just had my birthday and received some lovely gifts as well as money to buy what I would like. All were very much appreciated. It was lovely to be with family this year and we took them all out for dinner. My little granddaughter made me a chocolate cake which was delicious. I generally send my friends just a card, but family get money to spend as they wish. I find that’s easier than trying to guess what to buy them. I do enjoy being sung to on my birthday, even if it’s down the phone. 😅

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  28. Hi Mabel – I liked your thoughts about giving gifts and you have us thinking – the helping someone out and connecting are top reasons –
    and we give gifts – but we tend to keep things reasonable or try to go for custom gifts –

    and with that in mind – my husband’s friend had a 40th bday in July and we went to his party (had a house gift for his wife – not related to the party – they were wooden letters that spelled out “welcome” and I knew she’d like them) anyhow, we said we’d bring his gift later – and then we have not seen them – and my hubs asked me if we should still give hm a gift – and I said “absolutely” because it was a 40th – and we are trying to get the right gift –

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  29. I find it so interesting, how different people in my life (family and friends and acquaintances) celebrate birthdays (and gift giving) differently. In my family growing up, we kids got birthday gifts, but not the parents. In my guy’s family, birthdays were not made much of a deal, maybe because there were 7 children and not a lot of money to spread around. My guy is still very uncomfortable receiving gifts, which I find sad. One of my friends goes overboard on b.d. gifts to her son and husband – they celebrate each other’s birthdays for a month and include expensive dinners out, clothes, and several birthday cakes. Me? I get a bit embarrassed about a big fuss over my birthday, but I’d get hurt if no one noticed the date.

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    • It really is interesting indeed how birthdays and gifting work differently for each person. That is a good observation, that in your family, the kids go birthday gifts but the parents did not. Your guy seems to be such a nice guy, not wanting a gift as he probably doesn’t want to trouble others – and sees that there are more important things than gifts 😊

      I also have friends who celebrate their birthdays all month long. Sometimes they would be two or three birthday celebrations or catchups in a day, from morning to night lol.

      I hope you get some attention on your birthday for all the years ahead, Pam. You deserve it 😊💖

      Liked by 1 person

  30. What an interesting post, Mabel! I didn’t know about Egyptian, Greek and Roman traditions and reasons for gifting – and I have a master’s degree in Classical Archaeology! 😂 I guess it never came up in my studies. 😆
    I for one don’t am not big on birthdays and like to keep mine very simple: having a good time with people you love and enjoying a good meal is usually all I wish for. 😊
    As a giver I like to gift handmade gifts, unless I know the receiver doesn’t care for it and prefers storebought presents. (A lesson learned the hard way!)
    Also I think the best present we can give is our time.
    Wishing you a lovely weekend, Mabel! 💞

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    • There’s always something to be learnt every day! It’s interesting how birthdays traditions have its roots in so many European cultures.

      You and I are very similar on birthdays, keeping it simple either quietly at home or out with good company. Agreed, the gift of our time is a very good gift 😊

      So kind of you to give handmade gifts if the receiver is into it. In the past I’ve crochet gifts for others and they were well received. But it’s perfectly okay if someone isn’t into it. After all, they might simply prefer or need something else.

      Hope you had a good weekend and have a good week ahead, Sarah 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Interesting, Mabel! I guess the 1st and 3rd reasons are most important to me. I think a birthday gift always needs a personal touch, even just for connections. It can be small and inexpensive, but at least it needs to show some care and effort. Otherwise, a birthday gift would lose its meaning. Unpersonal gifts like coupons (without greeting cards) are big NO to me 😛

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  32. Mabel some very interesting research on the history of birthday gift giving. I had no idea about the warding off of evil spirits of the ancient Greeks. I try to focus on experiences in birthday gift giving rather than ‘things’. Especially for older folks in my life who really have anything they might want or need. Although I’m not always successful, I try to ensure it is something with meaning for the recipient.
    As always a thought provoking post. I’ll be thinking of you when the next birthday comes around.

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    • The history behind birthdays is certainly interesting. That is very thoughtful of you to focus on experiences, especially if someone has all they need. Experiences aren’t something everyone can afford, or sometimes others hold back on them for one reason or another. So giving an experience can be a great gift.

      It is also thoughtful of you to think of me when the next birthday comes up. I am sure you will have a good time coming up with your next birthday gift 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Great post about gifts! Super relevant to me because a lot of my close friends and family have birthdays in the summer months so this is my gift-giving season. I feel like I do give gifts to show that I care about my friends, though I also think it’s kinda arbitrary that we give gifts on people’s birthdays and not just any other day of the year. I do feel like giving gifts on birthdays maybe is a little bit less tied to capitalism than other occasions like Valentine’s Day or Christmas. Hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. (:

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    • That’s lovely your close friends and family have birthdays in the summer. It can be nice (pre-Covid) to celebrate birthdays in the summer, especially outdoors and you could even do summer road-trips to celebrate birthdays. Sometimes I just like randomly giving someone a gift because I feel like it, and because you know, everyone deserves something every now and then. Hope your weekend was great and have a good week ahead, Thomas 😊

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  34. That was really interesting to read. Who doesn’t love birthday presents, but I dread having to choose something, especially if it’s for my wife or children, especially my daughters. I never know what to get them and while Amazon vouchers are always handy, they aren’t very exciting.

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    • Thanks, Tony. It can certainly be hard to get gifts for loved ones even though they are family. Sometimes I find asking what the birthday person wants helps. That way I don’t end up getting something they don’t like – and I get them something they want, and they’d probably be excited about that.

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  35. I love it when receiving the gifts even if it’s not on my birthday 😀 A surprising gift is the best! And as well, I do love getting people I care about a present on their birthday or special occasion. As I am getting older, I find it’s no longer necessary to celebrate it nor even receiving any birthday gifts..but I feel obligated to do so, maybe it’s more like tradition and social pressure as well. A well-thought post, Mabel 🙂

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    • So agree with you that surprise gifts are the best! It speaks volumes when someone gives you a gift not on your birthday but just on a random day. It is nice of you to want to give others’ gifts. Sometimes you just feel like it I suppose – and people do deserve nice things. Hope you are well, Indah 🙂

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  36. hi Mabel. interesting post, as always. as we age, gift giving especially on birthdays have diminished. but i love to wrap gifts and always a joy to give. to ward of evil spirits as one reason to give a birthday gift is new to me. take care.

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    • Thanks, Wilma. I also love wrapping gifts. There’s quite an art to wrapping gift nicely and making it presentable yet making it so secure. Happy giving and wrapping gifts. Enjoy the rest of your summer and take care too.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Mabel, a superb post and rather timely as it is soon my birthday! 😀 I remember your previous post well and our discussion about birthdays overall! I love both receiving presents and probably more, giving presents. You’ve collated an excellent list of reasons for giving presents and some of these had not occurred to me before. It’s interesting to learn about Roman and Chinese traditions. Personally, I feel it is an act of care, thoughtfulness and often love into each gift. My husband is currently making me a shelf on wheels for my cassettes which will fit snugly next to my desk … a gift I know I will treasure and use regularly! My main problem with presents is trying to find a gift for people who seem to have everything or who are so particular about certain brands of items etc that it’s become almost impossible to get it ‘right’! Then I might despair before using my imagination to think of something! As always an engrossing article and always enjoy reading the ensuing discussion. Hope you’re keeping well and wishing you a great start to the week. xx

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    • It is so lovely to see you. Well, as your birthday is soon, I guess it’s time for some birthday wishes for you. Happy Birthday Annika! 🎉 May it be a lovely upcoming year for you. Now, what should I get you for your birthday… 😀

      You described gift giving so well, that it is, ‘an act of care, thoughtfulness and often love into each gift’. So agree with that. A good gift is one that you put time into choosing and picking out, thinking deeply of what resonates with the other person. That is so kind of your husband to make a shelf with wheels for your cassettes. Your cassettes will have such a good home, and your husband is so thoughtful.

      I’m one of those people who are hard to find a gift for. I’m very particular about what I want in my life, and don’t mind trading gift lists. I’m sure at the end of the day you get meaningful gifts for even the most pickiest of people, Annika. Thank you for your kind words and for reading the discussion. Many happy returns

      Liked by 1 person

  38. Thought-provoking post, Mabel.
    In our family, we are not universal Givers or Non-givers of birthday presents. It would depend on the person, and whether we can think of an appropriate pressie for them. We feel like we shouldn’t gift just for the sake of giving. For our children, we celebrated their birthdays each year with a celebration of some sort, but without gifts. We encouraged and helped them gift others as part of these celebrations. Of course, they would receive gifts from others, so we figured they would get enough presents without us giving them one as well.

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    • Thanks, Ju-Lyn. So agree with you that we shouldn’t give for the sake of giving. I think giving with intention is the way to go, especially when it comes to giving someone a gift you know will serve them well.

      So lovely of you to celebrate your childrens’ birthdays, especially encouraging them to think of others. They must be very appreciative of gifts when they receive it from others. It’s always the thought and intention that counts when it comes to meaningful gifting.

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      • I think with the children, we wanted them to take time to think of others even on their special day. Particularly because they get all the attention on those occasions – we wanted to try to instil sense of otherness & community.

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  39. When it comes to birthdays, Mabel, I think hard what that person would really like. My gifts are not carelessly selected. The meaning behind the gift is more important to me, then the actual gift itself. Sending you so much love. Stay strong and know that the tide has turned and our world will improve. When I hear stories about what is going on in Australia, I could just weep. OH how I pray!! Take care!! xoxox

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    • You are a very thoughtful birthday gift giver, Amy. I am sure anyone who has ever received a gift from you has found it thoughtful and appreciate your presence in their life ❤ Australia is a very, very different place compared to the rest of the world at the moment. Many are doing it tough. The tide is turning and yes, hopefully things get better all round. You take care too ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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