"Giving items to one another is a thing that can be done year round, and is more joyous when done spontaneously, not as a requirement. When a special occasion comes around that offers reflection on the past and the future, I think memories are the important thing to create."
Here's the problem with the expectation of getting a gift. If you don't do something, it causes resentment. This is wrong. It's not what generosity and gifts is about! A person getting a gift is grateful and pleased with the giver. But if they're expecting to be given something, then the gift is no longer a gift, it's a payment--a debt owed to the person getting the "gift." This is why a person would get angry if they don't get a gift--they're experiencing the same emotion as they would if the giver was in their debt, and defaulted on their loan--if they made a late payment.
This is not what holidays should be about, or foster!
This is why I am so strongly against the idea that a specific day of the year should be set aside to give gifts to your family, or to be especially romantic with your significant other. Do we not love them on all the days of the year? Can we not be romantic all the time; is it really so much effort to be a generous lover? On some level, this concept applies to birthdays also. I'm a much bigger fan of using special dates as opportunities for reflection, or of making memories by doing something together (which can still be a sort of gift, I realize--there's nothing wrong with that), and of giving gifts spontaneously throughout the year, catching your loved ones by surprise and making them grateful, instead of resentful that you didn't give them what they expected, when they were expecting it.
A person who gets material objects of desire on certain days each year develops an expectant desire for them, and experiences bitterness when they don't get them. But if on your children's birthdays each year, you take them on an exciting adventure to a park or nature preserve they haven't been before, to explore God's creation and spend time together, even if this counts as a gift, think, what will they look forward to on those special days in years to come? Spending time with family and grasping the bigger picture of what makes another year of life so special: the fact that we are stewards of God's creation and He has blessed us with the double gifts of getting to enjoy His world, as well as being saved through His mercy via the Cross, for the enjoyment of a more perfect world for eternity to come. It makes a huge difference!
I refuse to participate in Valentine's Day. This is an easy thing to say for a guy who's never had occasion to spend money on a sweetheart, but having the time to think about it has led me to realize that it's not such an auspicious time of year after all. Romance is something you create on your own, and if you need help, you may be in trouble. And those who depend on cultural expectations to get things they desire may have their priorities wrong--desiring the 'gifts' more than the gift-giver. When you think about it, V Day and how you approach it is a perfect parallel to how you approach God and the Gospel. Do you desire Him, or do you just want a sugar daddy God who will give you things? It's very closely connected, on a spiritual level.
I therefore choose to not participate in expected gift exchanges or purchases of teddy bears, chocolate or flowers on Valentine's Day, because of what it symbolically demonstrates about the Gospel.
This is a preferential decision I've made, based on dogma I hold to. I wouldn't dogmatically require others to follow along with my preference. I plan to talk about this in an upcoming post.
After reading this, are you more or less inclined to participate in the cultural expectations surrounding February 14th?
~ Rak Chazak