We may not be entirely post-pandemic, but things have begun to return to a state of normalcy for many people, and the rest of us have to think positively, right? Of course, there’s a dramatic urge in many people to go back to normal, to return to the days before we were all afraid to touch any mail that hadn’t sat on the countertop for at least three days. But as a little rat said in a Pixar movie that was released way before the pandemic, “change is nature.” And there’s a reason it’s called a post-pandemic era and not the regular old era.
But what exactly does that mean? What does it look like to do something as simple yet emotionally powerful as giving a gift during the Holidays in the current age? How is it different from how we used to do it? Because it surely can’t be so drastic as to devote an entire article to the concept, right?
Well, you’d be right and wrong.
We don’t need to show a graph or cite a research paper to convince you that online shopping has experienced a bit of a spike since this disease landed. Even if you hadn’t dabbled in this arcane art yourself, you’d know about it through sheer cultural osmosis.
Giving gifts, in turn, has gone through a bit of a metamorphosis since no in-person meetups were going on. For example, one can simply order unique gifts online to be delivered without contact. We all lacked the immediate and emotional satisfaction of seeing someone’s face light up when the wrapping paper gives way just enough for a word or a picture to appear and give the whole game away. Or so it was for those of us who didn’t figure out how to use Zoom. To keep the tradition alive, many people took to opening their presents on camera, patiently keeping the gifts in the corner of their room until they could give their own gift of a smile and a laugh.
But most of the time, the opening was done alone, and the reactions were revealed later. This had a non-insignificant impact on the whole process, as it turns out.
Why do we give gifts? Well, the more cynical among us would throw a word like obligation around, and perhaps they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. However, we all know that’s not the whole story — not by a long shot. We are a social and empathetic species, so we are happy when those we care about are happy, and vice versa (hopefully). That’s still very much the case! In fact, almost more so.
Gift-giving has taken on an altered meaning in this day and age. Not a different meaning, mind you, an altered meaning. The happiness one hopes to give someone by buying something for them is a lot more purposeful now. It’s not simply about showing love and affection. It’s also about mending wounds. It’s about making up for time spent apart and reminding those you love that there is still good in the world — there are still things worth being excited about and passionate about.
On top of that, online data seems to suggest that the gifts being given aren’t just nice trinkets and tickets, but basic necessities and even just straight-up money, be it gift cards or cash. This suggests that gift-giving itself has become, on a broader scale, somewhat more utilitarian. However, it must be said that this is not a good excuse to give your children for why Santa gave them socks. Children don’t care about the shared culture of empathy. However, they do care about Spiderman and his absence from underneath the tree.
Now, this might hurt those of you out there who are hardcore traditionalists, but that same online data that spoke of practical gifts also speaks of a sudden shift in when those gifts are sent. Specifically, the presents that would normally be received within one to seven days are now being spread out far and wide across the calendar year. So instead of truckloads on one day, it’s sprinkled throughout the seasons, like the changing of the weather.
This makes sense, of course, if we consider that more presents tend to be functional rather than sentimental. It’s not exactly appropriate to wait until December 25th to send someone that wrench they’ve needed to fix the plumbing for months. However, this doesn’t mean presents on the big day are canceled. It just might mean the expectations might be a bit higher than usual.
But no matter how you do it this year or the contents of the presents, the fundamentals remain the same, as are the smiles of the recipients. Happy Holidays everyone.