Close to our hearts
Giving is interpersonal communication, an ancient game of love, power and happiness. The best gifts will be with us for life. We just need to follow some simple rules.
By Eva Book and Sabrina Waffenschmidt
“A gift is worth as much as the care with which it was selected.”
Thyde Monnier, author
Giving does you good. Receiving also does you good. And that’s not all:
Without gifts, society would not have emerged, according to sociologist Georg Simmel. Gift giving is deeply rooted in human nature, a vestige of a time when we shared goods within our communities in order to survive the vagaries of nature. Yet in modern times gifts have become a game, in which players choose their role: obliging or obliged giver, strategic or show-off. The game of giving follows certain unwritten rules, which can change over time. One thing remains constant, and that’s the need to play the game, whether we want to or not. Gift giving is always a risk. After all, a gift can fulfil many functions – to show love and affection, to have the final word, to create an obligation or raise a smile, to evoke feelings or embarrassment. Gifts can work in a thousand ways. Yet one constant always applies:
they act as communication, as sociologist Holger Schwaiger explains in his book on giving entitled ̒Schenken. Entwurf einer sozialen Morphologie aus Perspektive der Kommunikationstheorie’ (Giving. Creation of a social morphology from the perspective of communication theory). A gift giver makes a physical statement in space, and the recipient is required to react to it. In contrast to a conversation, this statement is made with an object rather than words. This makes it form of communication that is hard to ignore. The recipient wants to see themselves reflected in the gift, while the giver wants it to be acknowledged appropriately. There’s no way to avoid reacting. Nor is there a recipe for the perfect present. For a gift to be well received, the giver needs to imagine themselves in the recipient’s shoes, to think about their relationship. The best presents fit both the recipient’s and the giver’s personalities. In the past, people really did̒ give something of themselves’: a blacksmith might give a good knife, a potter “It is wrong to think that giving is easy.”
The Germans spend on average 381 Euro on Christmas presents.
Source: Research Now Group, 2017
Nowadays gifts are more about telling stories and say a lot about the relationship between the giver and the receiver. In an ideal scenario, a present will create a big moment between two people. It will show recipients how someone secretly planned their happiness. It can generate electricity, intimacy. The best gifts often take pride of place and become firm favourites. Their material value is immaterial.
“It is wrong to think that giving is easy.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, philosopher
The art of giving
There are times when gifts are de rigeur. Yet a little imagination goes a long way towards a memorable present.
Every year, the stress of giving gifts overpowers that cosy Christmas feeling. Why is that? Once again in 2017, money and vouchers were the favourite Christmas presents in Europe. However, impersonal vouchers make a more lasting and touching impression when they are a token considered carefully in advance rather than a hastily scribbled last-minute message. They could perhaps be accompanied by some sparkly earrings to represent the night out you’ve planned with your girlfriend, a beautiful candle to stand for the spa day you’ll have together, or highball glasses to symbolise the whisky tasting voucher you’ve bought your brother.
Birthdays are the one chance we have each year to celebrate a very special person. It figures that this person and their preferences are at the forefront when we choose a gift. The closer we are to that person, the more pressure there is to choose well: are they home-loving or adventurous? Are they sporty or a foodie? Are they a practical type, do they love little trinkets? Birthdays are often an occasion to drink a toast – so why not choose a special bottle of wine, gin or grappa?
This tradition spread with emigrants from the UK to the US and subsequently moved to Germany after the Second World War. Only recently has 14 February been seen as a time to give gifts in Germany. Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is inextricably linked with flowers, perfume, jewellery and chocolates. Over half of all consumers here buy their loved one a Valentine’s gift, and almost 40 percent spend up to € 50.
Thanks Mum! What’s the best way of saying it? Flowers are great, but soon fade. If you think about it, there’s an easy way round this – why not give your mum a framed print of her favourite flowers instead of some fresh ones? Captured on paper, even orchids and cherry blossom last for ever. And instead of sending the flower delivery service, good sons and daughters can drop by in person with a vase full of blooms. The vase will remain for years, as a reminder.
When two people make a lifelong commitment, they love to throw a big party. If friends and family all chip in to buy a gift, the sums involved can be quite substantial. A great piece of furniture makes a good investment, or perhaps a unique piece of art or interior decor, or some smart crockery for the happy couple’s new home. A thoughtful wedding gift will often be passed down through several generations.
Welcome to the world! By marking a baby’s birth with a gift, you will make its parents happy. And since the standardissue kit, from babygrows to hats, will already be taken care of, you can concentrate on items that the child will keep throughout their life. Think engraved locket, or hand-made rocking horse.
Whether you’re invited to dinner or just for coffee, it wouldn’t do to turn up empty-handed. You could bring some good liqueur to help digest the meal or spice up the coffee. Funny, practical and stylish kitchen accessories also make a great thank you for a food-related invitation.
When you move house, the walls are empty and the decor minimal. So the hosts at a housewarming will be pleased with any gifts that give their new home a personal touch. Perhaps a knitted rug for the sofa, a stool to seat unexpected guests, or a lovely lamp or candleholder to add some mood lighting. When they next move house, your hosts can always take the loveliest items with them.
We all experience setbacks in life, and although they’re not normally an occasion to celebrate, it might still be appropriate to give a gift. Even a small gesture can raise a smile on a rainy day, and distract the recipient from their thoughts for a moment. The ideal gifts are aimed at sensory wellbeing: a colourful cushion, a lucky charm or some fragrant tea.
Paper & friends
Tendence takes place at the perfect time of the year for ordering calendars. It’s no surprise then that the new Paper & Friends exhibitor platform focuses on wall calendars. However, it also offers a great deal more, including a unique curated mix of calendars, cards, stationery and gift books from well-known brands as well as innovative newcomers. Buyers will gain inspirations for their own point of sale from this delightfully purist presentation. The platform was conceived by Angelika Niestrath, who is an expert in the field of supplementary product assortments and product presentation. She advises retailers, publishers and manufacturers and is also responsible for launching the non-book area at the Frankfurt Book Fair.