A thought on holiday gifts from the Apprentice Befana
We are on the threshold of Nativity and other winter festivities – a time of the year when different customs for gift giving are expressed, as it has become a universal tradition. It’s really fascinating, the culture around gifts, the act of giving and receiving, giving of oneself, expressing generosity, creating a circuit of emotion and energy through the gift.
There’s also the risk that from a sense of obligation to demonstrate love through gifts, we fall into habits of consumerism, accumulating unused objects, uselessly spending money, seeking affordable prices and in doing so, supporting inhumane labor conditions and an unsustainable consumption of resources.
I would really like to see us strengthening a Damanhurian culture of gifting, valuing the deeper exchange that the gift represents. Gifting an experience together, an artistic or culinary creation, things made by hand, using materials from our lands or ones that are reused or recycled. Maybe even gifting something that I have in my possession, which is even more precious because it is permeated by my personal frequency and has a story behind it that I can tell. If the gift is something that is purchased, it would be a Damanhurian object (we could even commission our artists to make a personal gift!), or if it isn’t, it’s anyhow local or from a fair trade and organic source, or it’s something that will be valued and used for a long time. We could also transmit these values to our children, gifting them with what will last in time, attention and spending time together, beyond the desired objects of the moment.
Here are some things that I found stimulating for applying a different logic in thinking of gifts:
The Five Love Languages is a book written by Gary Chapman that defines five main modalities of expressing and receiving love: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and devotion, and touch/intimacy. He believes that each of us has a primary and secondary modality that opens us to love. It’s pretty common to express love through the modality that I like to receive, instead of the one that is primary for the other person. It’s true that at times, a gift is more fulfilling to the person gifting it than the person receiving it!
Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer who was married to her late husband Everardo, an indigenous Mayan resistance leader from Guatemala, tells that in some Mayan tribes, the tradition for weddings is not to exchange rings but to exchange spoons between husband and wife. The spoon is usually made by hand from wood, with a colored band that codifies specific achievements and events in the person’s life and in the life of the tribe. It makes sense: what would you do with a gold and diamond ring in the Guatemalan jungle, even if there were the economy to acquire it? Though you use your spoon everyday, so it’s infinitely more precious.
Another anecdote about utensils and marriage: when my cousin was married, she and her husband received many gifts from my grandparents and family, like a beautiful ceramic tea set, jade jewelry, silk scarves, and then she received a set of wooden chopsticks. She was surprised by this simple, inexpensive gift among the more extravagant ones. My grandparents explained that chopsticks are a traditional Chinese wedding gift, because in Chinese, the word for chopsticks (kuai-zi) if divided into the two components, means “quickly” (kuai), “give birth” (zi), so more than the physical worth, it was a play on words with a linguistic-symbolic value. (Let’s forget about the fact that “zi” means a having a baby boy, not a girl.) So, perhaps chopsticks would be a fitting holiday gift for those who are desiring to have a child.
Taking the time to think about a gift, it’s an opportunity to offer a piece of ourselves to others, to get to know each other more and deepen our relationships.
Un pensiero sui regali dall’Apprendista Befana… Continue reading