How did the custom of gift-giving begin?
No one can tell for certain. Some say it started with the cavemen who offered food and stuff to show that they could support a family.
On the other hand, Claude Levi-Strauss wrote in the UNESCO Courier that gift-giving was an ancient Roman custom which used to take place during the festival of Janus, after whom the month of January was named. He’s the Roman god with two faces, symbolizing beginnings and endings, time, gates, and transition.
But what may well be the occasion that’s remembered by millions and millions of people around the world is the account of the three Wise Men who gifted the child Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. That’s why gift-giving has become a special Christmas tradition.
And yet, it’s not the monetary value of a gift that should count, because that’s not how the ever-merciful God judges. It’s the thought, what’s inside the heart, that counts.
It is the misfortune of this Original Poster with the username u/SupportiveHusbandnot to have missed the true meaning of gift-giving. He judges by physical beauty, and not by God’s standard. And he made a serious mistake, breaking the heart of an innocent child.
Why he needed to publish this story in Reddit’s r/AmItheA–hole forum is perplexing. You would think that as a grown man and one experienced in the world, there is no longer a need to do this, and he should be focusing on mending the shattered relationship with his young niece. But then, more weaknesses in him were laid bare as he made the post: he needed validation for his reaction that stabbed a child’s heart with searing pain.
OP started his post with: “My 12-year-old niece is really into arts and crafts and recently got into crocheting. Before Christmas, she told me that she had a surprise gift for me and seemed really excited about it. I told her I was really looking forward to it as well and prepared her gift myself (which was actually art supplies). On Christmas, when we had our family gathering, she brought me her gift and was super excited for me to open it. When I opened it, I saw a crocheted animal, but if I’m being honest, it looked REALLY REALLY bad. To give you an idea of what it looked like, imagine something from r/badtaxidermy but in crochet form. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, and I couldn’t stop laughing no matter how hard I tried to suppress it, so I had to excuse myself to go to the washroom, where I locked myself for nearly 10 minutes.”
He did come out afterward, more composed. But he saw his niece crying and being comforted by her parents. He apologized profusely and started saying he liked the gift. However, the young girl replied that he was being a liar and she’s not really good at art.
OP further related, “My niece avoided me for the vast majority of the party after that. I tried to make her feel better by displaying her gift on my living room cabinet, but my wife pulled me aside later in the day and told me to take it down after the party because it was in her words, ‘really ugly’ and made her uncomfortable. Surprisingly, all the adults were very understanding of my situation, but I feel really bad because I feel like I destroyed my niece’s confidence, and I’m not sure how I can make it up to her.”
Actually, what OP isn’t sure of is if his reaction was really justifiable. Some adults with morals like him didn’t think it was a big deal since the gift looked horrible, and even his wife disliked it. But he also has nagging doubts because he has lost his niece’s trust. Now he’s at a loss for what he should do to win her trust back.
That’s what happens when we fail to appreciate a child, to whom Jesus likened those people who will be rewarded by God with eternal life in His Kingdom.
Our tastes as adults have become so sophisticated that we judge by what we see, and we appreciate only what’s beautiful, precious, and useful.
And blinded by these things that rot with time, we fail to discern the most important virtue and gift of all: LOVE.