Received wisdom

You know that feeling when that person you most hoped would give you something really, really wonderful as a gift turns around and gives you…

…food from the tree in the middle of the garden,


…frankincense (duty-free),


…festive socks that play jingle bells?

And all you can do is be polite and just bite it, because you are either (a) happy not to question someone else’s mistake, or (b) under two years old, or (c) a dog?

So you take it and eat it. And everyone else tries to stop you and the whole thing gets a little messy, especially as It Wasn’t Really Meant For You In The First Place. We all know there are gifts you should not just take and eat. And there are others that are designed to make up for that. Take and Eat Jesus says at the last supper. Quite right. Take. Eat. Receive. Heal. Restore.

Which means that you can’t assume it is OK just to refuse gifts. Especially in the season of accepting God’s most precious gift to mankind. Refusing gifts is actually very rude. A relative once told us not to send presents to them at all, and I felt hurt that it was not an option. Gift-giving all around the world, is a sign of respect, honour and strengthening relationship. I imagine William, Kate and the baby will be inundated with gifts appropriate, inappropriate and almost certainly superfluous for the coming year or more and must weather it all with good grace and British cheer. And hopefully donate every excess item to baby clothing exchanges up and down the country (*ahem* Rainbow Toddlers *ahem*).

[I personally am hoping it is twins born at precisely the same moment by caesarian section, called William Alfred Leo Edward Spencer, Alfie for short and Diana Isabella Anne Naomi Alexandra, Bella for short.]


But I digress.

Gifts, and the unfortunate receiving and eating thereof. My husband and I have asked our immediate family to consider not buying the two of us physical presents which need to be found a home, used, eaten or carefully and quietly passed to a more appropriate recipient. We have more than we need and no desires for Things at this point in time. In fact, we are desperately trying to declutter and simplify the stuff that has accumulated in our lives. The children (5 and 2) only really warrant a tiny actual present, so that they have something to unwrap and to help them realise that Christmas is not about Bigger and Better and stuffstuffstuff. We value time together and happy memories, kind words, hugs and humour. Thoughtful gifts are always genuinely appreciated, but gifts for gifts’ sake are uncomfortable and unnecessary. Less is more when it comes to Christmas presents these days for us. Last year we tried not get each other a gift at all (I was in Canada: the only thing I opened there from home was a DVD from my husband that he thought I wanted…) Instead we decorated our bedroom from the January sales and it was a far better decision.

Gifts, and that awkward zero-sum moment. You don’t want others to think you have forgotten them or spent less on them than they did, or that they might feel bad for spending less than you did, or that the number of items was not equal across the family. Was it OK to settle for something that can only be classed as ‘gift’ when what might have been far more suited was a nice cuppa and a chat?

Gifts, and the other love languages, and knowing that to love everyone means to love in diverse ways, and sometimes that means receiving too. Or saying the words that need to be heard. Or giving a hug that is so, so needed. Or spending time washing up, together. Or just being, without complaining, and without thinking what you might otherwise have been doing.

Gifts, and the complications of thank you letters, at least in my own family. Because we all want to love in the way we feel the others ought to receive our love best.

Receiving is so, so hard.

I am not going to complain if you give me a gift.

I am not going to complain if you give me a gift I really didn’t want, couldn’t eat, couldn’t use or don’t fit.

I am even going to try very hard not to be bitter, flippant or confused should that happen.


A King is Born! And what do they give him?


Seriously, Frankincense?


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