In making my list of gift suggestions for Christmas, I could not help but reflect that what we need most are things spiritual, not material. We need things that will not agitate us but which will fill us with peace and order. We don’t need “stuff” to fill our closets but gifts that are enduring and endearing.
Rather than list specific products or titles, I will provide some guidelines that can be used to help make wise gift decisions for the conservative giver.
I think these gifts should reflect more than just a look to a nostalgic past but instead should help us imagine the future. These gifts should encourage us in our fight for the culture and fortify the principles we hold.
1. Personalize the Gift
I know someone who makes fruitcakes or gingerbread every year. He sends them out to friends who look forward to them. There is something about giving home-made items that resonates deep within us. The gift carries with it a note of affection and warmth. Thus, my suggestion is to make something for others this Christmas. Personalize the gift.
2. Give Something non-Electronic
I would resist the temptation to give electronic devices to those we love. Nothing kills conversation or ruins conviviality more than those gadgets that so monopolize our attention. Give something non-electronic this Christmas. Give stationary (with stamps) and challenge the person to use it. Give a good book and ask a friend to discuss it. Give an empty notebook and invite the person to fill it with thoughts and impressions over the coming year. Give things that will enrich, not impoverish intellectual life. Give things that attract the person away from the glow of the screen.
3. Something to Ponder
Everyone needs things that provoke wonder. We need scenarios that invite us to ponder. Nothing enlivens a wall more than an oil painting. It does not have to be large or expensive. It suffices that it not be modern art. It should be a scene of something beautiful, epic and inspiring. Paintings are full of nuance and depth that come alive according to the lighting of the room.
These same criteria can apply to any work of art since they provide material to ponder. Good etchings, prints or musical recordings are gifts that invite people to think beyond self. For a fiscal conservative, consider an old silver coin with a storied history. Even an exquisite liquor can awaken reflections in those who know how to appreciate them.
4. Something Symbolic
Symbols speak strongly about invisible realities that our minds grasp. Give a friend something symbolic. For the combative conservative, perhaps a replica of a sword would express that feisty spirit that should motivate the New Year’s activities. A scholar might appreciate a pen that symbolizes the expression of high thoughts.
Think of symbolic colors, animals, or patriotic themes that traditionally serve as symbols that lead people to virtue. Religious symbols like the cross remind us of the moral challenges and sufferings that we are called to endure for our Faith. Enhance the gift by telling the person of the symbolism of the gift.
5. Give Something of Christ in Christmas
It makes no sense to ignore the reason for the season. We often decry the commercialization of Christmas but resort to secular choices when it comes to gift-giving. Obviously, not all gifts should be religious, but it would be good that at least some of our Christmas-giving be evocative of the Christ we celebrate. Therefore, give religious gifts for Christmas. Anything that can improve the spiritual lives of others makes for an excellent gift. Think of books, biographies, musical recordings, devotional items, rosaries or pictures.
They can also be gifts that speak to us of things associated with the rich history of Christendom, the fruit of God’s grace and the Blood shed for us on the Cross. The important thing is the gift should draw toward God.
The Supreme Gift
Whatever we give, the gifts should be something that we can enjoy together with others. They should make us merry. The spiritual benefits that the gifts convey are more important than the gifts themselves. It would be wonderful if the gifts could reflect something of what Russel Kirk referred to as “the permanent things,” those norms that give meaning and purpose to life. They should serve to fill us with courage and strength for the turbulent year ahead. We should sense God and His Providence providing us with those things we need to survive our frenetic world.
The greatest gift of Christmas is Christ Who became flesh and dwelt among us. In this sense, the best gift you can give to others is to celebrate this sublime event with them. It need not involve great expense but does ask that we be selfless and generous. This celebration requires that we not be turned inward to but outward toward things that inspire awe and wonder. It involves the extraordinary not the ordinary, the beautiful not the ugly; all that is marvelous, merry and innocent. This celebration will lead us to the manger where Christ awaits us.
As seen on The Imaginative Conservative.