Giving meaningful gifts

It’s not about the money, unless that’s what they want

Shefali O'Hara
3 min readDec 12, 2021


Photo by Nina Mercado on Unsplash

For many people, this is the most frantic time of the year. Rushing around, buying stuff. Then, after Christmas, rushing around, returning or exchanging stuff… why do we do it?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to create special moments with loved ones. It’s also important to express how much you care. And sometimes there are people in your inner circle that are going through a rough patch, and need some help. Gift giving can address these issues.

Here are my thoughts on the whole gift giving ritual, for what it’s worth.

Children should have gifts! So should pets.

I don’t have children, but when I was married, I loved to choose a special something for each niece and nephew. One year I knit them all scarves. Not simple, plain scarves, but ones that reflected their personality. A green knit snake with button eyes and a rattle made of wooden beads for one nephew, a vivid mohair one with a lace pattern that looked like paws for another… they were so delighted they sent me back pictures of themselves wearing their new scarves, big smiles on their faces.

For my pets, I always get them something. For the cat, the best gift is to actually leave the discarded wrapping paper from other gifts in a pile for her to explore and bat around.

Gifts should be personal — avoid the gift cards

Unless you know that is really what the person wants, don’t give them a gift certificate. At least, not if they are in your inner circle. A gift card or fruit basket from Harry and David’s are great for clients, acquaintances and distant relatives but for someone who you’re supposed to be close to — you can do better.

Gifts don’t need to cost a lot

What makes a gift special with people you love is that the gift shows them that you really know them, that you thought about what would truly please them, and that you made the effort.

This is something some people just get, others have to work at it. If you have never managed it and feel unsure — be brave. Like any muscle, your gift-giving ability…



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.