My eyes open in a snap. Instantly I throw aside the covers and bolt to the living room to see the presents. There is magic in that run, anticipation of what I have been given and is concealed by the shiny paper accelerates my feet. Sliding on the hardwood floors in my worn-down footie pajamas, I nearly run into the tree. Scanning the presents arranged around the tree, I tried to guess which boxes were for me and what was inside of them. The hard part was next. I needed to wait for my parents to wake up and get ready. I can only remember waking up before my parents on Christmas morning–they always woke up early. Waiting for my parents to get in their positions and being ready for my sister and I to open our gifts was borderline torture for my five-year-old self.
As the years passed, I grew out of my pajamas, I slept in longer, and I developed an idea, that led to some understanding and a bit of anxiety around Christmas, holidays, and receiving gifts. Even as a young kid, I have been an observant person who was inquisitive and noticed where people focused their attention. When I was between 10 and 12 I reacted poorly to a gift I received. I realized after that moment that gifts are mostly about the giver. After all, who gets the most from Christmas? It’s most certainly Santa, and next in line is likely all the kids.
How we give and what we give shows how we see those to whom we give. It also shows what the giver wants for the recipient and how the giver wants to be perceived (generous, thoughtful, practical, etc.). There are some gifts that are based on tradition (I’ve given my mom dozens of Santas and Blue Heron themed gifts) and some based on how we like (or don’t like) to shop. How the gift is received is based on the expectation we have of the giver, if we feel seen by the giver, or if we are pleased/surprised by the gift.
For me, this observation added pressure to how I felt I needed to respond as a receiver of gifts. That pressure on my portion of the exchange added some discomfort to me and generated an unnatural response when I would open presents. I felt like I owed the giver a great response even if I didn’t feel it. I wanted to be authentic but I felt the pressure to give the giver a positive response. I have been uncomfortable receiving gifts for a long time. But I look forward to thinking through thoughtful gifts and trying to show people I care for them and I see them as much as possible for their whole selves. That generates pressure too, but the reward of a pure, emotional, appreciative reaction is worth it.
This relates to fly fishing through the styles and methods we choose to fish. We pick the flies we choose to present to the fish based on who we are or who we want to be. When we fish we are the giver. The purist picks the dry fly and waits for a hatch to catch fish on the surface. The practical minded angler picks nymphs, as trout spend the vast majority of time feeding subsurface. The big game angler who wants to land the big fish, casts streamers all day to land the big one.
In addition, our identities are often formed through our hobbies. Hobbies are not what we have to do, but what we choose to do. These represent how we want to be seen and what we want to be associated with. People will often think of our hobbies when they want to be thoughtful for gifts. I really appreciate when people think of my hobbies for gifts, and I try to be supportive of the hobbies of people in my life.
The Christmas season recognizes the birth of Jesus, whose time on earth was a gift from God to save us all from sin. To celebrate this event, our society attends special church services, performances, family events, and social gatherings. At these events it is accepted and encouraged to give gifts to provide joy and recognize the people in life we care about.
When I think back to all my Sunday School Classes, Youth Group Meetings, and Church Services, the thing that stuck with me was the unconditional love of God, the greatest gift. When we can see past the giving and receiving of gifts and appreciate everyone in our lives for being who they are, we can see they each are a blessing. They choose to spend their time and moments with us, and that is the greatest gift of all.
Merry Christmas! Appreciate your time with each special person in your life.