The Season of Gifts

This week is dedicated to the making and giving of gifts, from the mid-nineteenth century perspective.

This passage is by Jennie June in her Jennie Juneiana: Talks on Women’s Topics (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1864.)

The Season of Gifts

“Who to give to?” is sometimes a puzzling question; for each one cannot give to all, or all who have claims upon them, and it is sometimes hard to decide between sisters, and aunts, and cousins, and still nearer and dearer relations. Some philanthropic people, who, however, rarely follow their own advice , advocate the ignoring of family ties altogether on these festal occasions, and urge the giving only to those who absolutely need something. But this is too hard and rigid a policy; it may be, and probably is the extreme of unselfishness, but we frankly own that it is beyond us. Give all that is possible to those whose friends are few and wants many, but yield something also to inclination and affection, and the kindly feelings which prompt and demand a fitting expression.

            But who to give to is not yet received a definite answer. First, as a loyal woman (we are talking to women), to those you love best; second, to those to whom perhaps you have done an injustice, if only in thought, and to whom you feel is due some slight reparation; and third, to those who need it. But it must be remembered that the sentiment of the gift is more than the gift itself. A very costly gift is sometimes not half so much valued as a flower, a book, or a kind word; but this is only true of very unsophisticated people. We have seen vulgar women, in garb of silk or satin, who would coarsely express undisguised contempt for a gift which did not come up to their ideas of cost. Such persons are incapable of appreciating a sentiment, and therefore give them nothing, or if that is impossible, let it be a check for so much money, which is the only point for which they care.

            What is proper to purchase for gifts, is a very embarrassing question to sensitive individuals, who desire to do the thing just right, and are afraid of making some mistake or committing some gauche-rie. Between husbands and wives, or in a family circle, such a difficulty can hardly exist, a wide range of the useful, as well as the sentimental and beautiful, being proper to choose from. For mere friends, however, the choice is sometimes very perplexing, notwithstanding that the variety of goods in every department is almost infinite, and books always exist as a dernier resort, although, in fact, they are the most suitable and valuable of gifts. To pretend to indicate those things which are most adapted as gifts to varied circumstances, would be to give a catalogue of every jewelry establishment, dry goods store, and fancy goods house, not to speak of toys, furs, groceries, bonnets, greenhouses, picture galleries, and furniture shops, all of which supply their quota to the generous influences of the season. A safe way is to ascertain a want or a taste on the part of the recipient, and then supply the one or gratify the other, according to means or convenience. Young ladies, or others who have time, and know how to execute the different kinds of fancy work, cannot pay a more delicate compliment to their friends than by presenting them with some pretty trifle of their own making.

Published in: on November 12, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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