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What gift-giving really means: Rewrapping our materialistic culture

By The Charger Account Editorial Staff Dec. 8, 2021

Although the holidays should evoke feelings of joyous celebration, for many, festivities become unduly stressful. Instead of spending quality time together, people misplace their holiday priorities dwelling over what to buy to make their loved ones happy. Consequently, the holidays often foster a materialistic culture where appreciation is measured by nominal values.

Xintong Zhao Art

This commercial society is not new: according to History, in the fourth century A.D., monk St. Nicholas created Santa Claus, perpetuating the idea that Christmas is associated with presents. Many children are now obsessed with receiving presents, fixated on what lays under the fir tree.

However, this problem extends beyond youth. Adults compete for other people’s appreciation by buying them pompous gifts. Yet, as recipients themselves, it is the fear of failing to properly return such gestures that engenders “reciprocation anxiety” in gift-givers. Social psychologist Robert Cialdani states that the obligation to reciprocate arises both in terms of who is going to gift the individual and the quality of that gift. Not reciprocating can result in “appreciation imbalance”—the giver misconstrues the receiver as not valuing them in the same way, falsely assuming their relationship to be troubled.

Breeding a materialistic culture has observed negative effects. According to Psychology Today, 38% of people experience what is known as the “holiday blues”—many people feel depressed and burdened due to society’s pressure of shopping, attending parties and making happy memories. Given their intrinsic neutrality, gifts themselves need not be associated with vanity. Exchanges should not be ephemeral swappings of objects, but rather opportunities for conversation between people, revisiting old memories and harboring new ones.

Therefore, this holiday season, we should repurpose gift-giving as a meaningful endeavor, especially to benefit those truly in need. Local nonprofits, such as the Family Giving Tree, allow donors to purchase gifts for low-income children. Similarly, the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program accepts toys and books to help prevent children from being empty-handed during the holidays.

While a bow-wrapped present may be alluring, people must realize that holidays are worth much more. Instead of emphasizing commercial values, we should encourage people to spend holidays meaningfully, stay present with loved ones and give back to the community.


About the Contributors

Aileen Xie


Aileen Xie is a senior at Leland High School and the Editor-in-Chief for Opinions, Viewpoint, and Last Word. She is deeply passionate about visual and literary arts, and loves philosophy. In her free time, she enjoys reading classics and drinking coffee.

Ashley Lee


Ashley Lee is a senior at Leland High School and the EiC of School News, Community News, and Feature School. During her free time, she enjoys baking, traveling with friends, and going to cafes.

Nancy Zheng

Editor-in-Chief, Ad Manager

Nancy Zheng is a senior at Leland High School and the Editor-in-Chief for Investigative Report, Sports, and Student Spotlight. She is also the Ad Manager of The Charger Account. Aside from academics, she loves playing piano, dancing Chinese dance, and curating Spotify playlists with friends.

Cindy Zhao

Editor-in-Chief, Media Manager

Cindy is a senior at Leland High School and the Editor-in-Chief for Lifestyle, Entertainment and Feature World as well as the Media Head for The Charger Account. They are a big fan of cameras, skies, and the human capacity for growth. Send them nice poetry and art prints, and they will love you forever.

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