Friday, December 05, 2014

The Season of Giving

Phoro: Jane M. Sawyer via Morgue File
Today, I turned to the January 1845 issue of Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book and found an article appropriate to the holiday season. "Gifts used to be pleasant things once; in the simpler days of this world's history, when men wore the faces and hearts God gave them and not faces and hearts of stone or ice" begins this treatise on how best to give and receive true gifts (those "spontaneous offerings from heart to heart," as opposed to gifts used as payment or procurement). This is truly a blog-worthy rant on gifts, but I can only share bits with you, so I have chosen:
Some people are much disappointed and quite indignant if "presents" do not buy affections, respect, deference, conformity, and other things that we all like. But this expectation is altogether unreasonable. Even children are seldom attached by gifts*. Their pleasure in the gift seldom refers to the giver. "Love for love" is the only barter, and we can all see when "presents" mean love. The very look--the tone of voice, may change the whole aspect of the thing. Indeed looks and tones are very important in these matters. The manner may be awkward--the eye averted--the voice constrained--the heart may shine through all and sanctify the offering. In either case, we care more for the spirit than for the action.   "Hints for an Essay on Presents" by the author of a "New Home." Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book Jan 1845; 30, 28.
So remember this season of holiday exchanges, you won't buy anyone's love when you go to the store, so make each gift a "spontaneous offering from heart to heart." We can dream, right?

I also enjoyed this article for the hint of first year writing student in the opening sentence: "Back in the day" we used to know how to give gifts. Nowadays we're so world-weary and cynical, gift-giving is a much more difficult form of exchange. Seriously, I used to get essays all the time: "since the beginning of time, man has had a love affair with the car (or other historical inaccuracy)" or "In the 1950s, women knew how to keep a clean house; nowadays children are dying from germs they pick up at home." Some days I can appreciate where I am now and where I came from. A true gift.


Margaret said...

It's always interesting when an article from 1845 is still relevant to today and could be from a writer of today.

riona said...

Human nature is a constant.

Adrienne Martini said...


Unrelated: can you or the Stitch Bitch hive mind think of a good project for a 12 year old who is just learning how to cross stitch?

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

I do wish I could visit these "good old days" every article writes about! I feel very old when people are reminiscing about their 1980s childhoods!

Beth W said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

Those essays....oh, I'm cringing. Ouch. That's an "It was a dark and stormy night" level of pain.