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Are We Capable of Giving Christmas Presents – Or Have We Become Indifferent To Them?

This is a guest post by Felix (Italy)

T.W. Adorno in his “Minima Moralia,” claims that we have lost the gift of giving gifts, despite the fact that everyone should be capable of finding the exact present that would fill the heart of the receiver with joy. This, in my words, is due to a decay in social relationships. I admit freely to being a bad present giver, and a miserable member of my social world. .When I go shopping for presents, I don’t find things for my friends but keep seeing ones that would be ideal presents for me. People don’t know each other well enough. Presents are thought of at the last minute, and we have to rush out for the next best thing. A relatively new development is asking people what they would like, which is better than giving the next best thing.

With some good friends I wrack my brains and can’t think of anything. They seem to have everything they need and I can’t think of anything to add. Once, at least I had an idea for a friend who went regularly to a café for a cappuccino, and I secretly paid for 20 cappuccinos: she didn’t know, so her free cappuccinos seemed endless. But someone who was really and truly a friend of mine should know all the books, CDs and etc.I have, so as to surprise me with something new, and the same applies to me.. Maybe that kind of friendship no longer exists.

Another thing that happens is that the present you are given is devastatingly wrong, which is worse than not getting one at all. Fortunately I can’t remember all of such occasions. Once I gave two volumes of Lorca to a friend – not at Christmas – because she reads Spanish and I wasn’t happy with the dual text Italian and also – as I told her – I couldn’t manage everything in one lifetime. Well, what did she give me for Christmas? A volume of Lorca. Another friend who knows my translations of poetry into Italian inside out, goes through them to weed out errors, knows exactly how I translate, gave me a book of Greek poetry. Although I don’t read Greek, I knew at a glance that the translations were of the very bad type, as my friend should surely have known. I kept the book for a while and then threw it into the rubbish bin. An ideal present would have been an excellent translation of Pushkin’s Onegin, but how could she know that?

I did know one excellent present giver. She was a beautiful, quite swish and classy French woman. She listened attentively to her friends in conversation throughout the year, and made a mental note of the things they liked and up she came with your heart’s desire. I forget to follow her example.. Bad friend.

A bad present giver: a friend who is quite well off. He digs up things he has in his flat and you get an old chocolate bar that is rotting and crawling with worms or a damaged CD.

Being asked for requests is better that the wrong or last minute gift. I have no end of things that are not expensive and make me happy. My friends should know that a bottle of wine or brandy or especially Porto wine, are always welcome. Sometimes presents that are ideal for you are simply overlooked. I remember Christmas on the farm in Namibia when I noticed my family whispering about the place that they had nothing for me, so they put £20 in an envelope. At that time I had very few classical LP’s, novels and books of poetry, which I was mad about. How could they not have thought of that? Once I brought a biography of Schumann, which I had bought myself and just asked my father to write, “Happy Christmas from Papa,” in it.

The latest tendency is to say, “Come for Christmas, but no presents.”

What is your experience of presents and giving presents?