Webster’s defines the word gift as something given voluntarily and without compensation. Set a brightly wrapped Christmas gift on a table for your group to view. Ask: What makes a wrapped present a true gift? Did they mention that true gifts should come from the heart? Talk about choosing the ideal or “perfect” gift. Ask your participants how many of them take the time to learn about the gift recipient’s needs, interests, or style before choosing an appropriate gift. For instance, is he/she an avid mystery reader? A fisherman? A cat lover? A chocolate connoisseur? A gourmet cook? Chat about ways to personalize your gift giving, such as theme gift baskets. Meaningful gifts don’t have to cost big bucks. What kind of homemade gifts has your group given? How about gifts that money can’t buy, such as a gift of talent or a coupon book of time/jobs?

For a fun activity, talk about gift ideas for a spouse, for long-distance relatives, for the person who has everything, anonymous gifts, intangible gifts, unexpected gifts, gifts for the boss, gifts for the teacher (add your ideas to the list)!

We all like to present our gifts with style. Hold a gift-decorating contest. Provide each participant with a small box. Offer an assortment of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, tags, small ornaments, etc., and challenge participants to a Best Gift Wrap Design contest.

On the lighter side: Organize a holiday gift exchange for your group. Try a Secret Santa or White Elephant Gift Exchange. Talk about the practice of regifting.

Reminisce about sleigh rides, caroling, tree trimming, toys, live nativity scenes, stockings, Christmas dinner, church services with hymns, bells ringing, and ice skating. Your group will rediscover the beauty of ordinary holiday activities. Encourage personal reflection on the meaning of the season as you talk about special family holiday traditions.

Consider how to reconnect the generations through gift giving. Compile a list of gifts older adults and young children can create together and give to others. For example, compose a family poem, craft an ornament, or organize a cookie swap. Read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, a tale about sacrificial giving. Or, sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and talk about the old custom of gift giving during the 12 days of Christmas. Share gift-giving customs around the world. ‘Tis the season!


For some people, gift-giving is a way of life instead of a once-in-awhile activity. Have you ever experienced the joy of generous giving? The holiday season is the perfect time to talk about the concept of philanthropy with your group. Ask: How do acts of generosity inspire philanthropy? Is philanthropy more than giving money away? What are the things that motivate sacrificial giving? Talk about famous past philanthropists who gave away enormous amounts of money, time, or assets to promote the public welfare. Some names are suggested below.

  1. Andrew Carnegie
  2. Henry Ford
  3. Ben Franklin
  4. J.P. Morgan
  5. John D. Rockefeller
  6. Andrew Mellon
  7. John Pierpont
  8. Jane Addams
  9. Cornelius Vanderbilt
  10. Margaret Olivia Sage

Ask your group: Have you ever made a charitable donation in a person’s name, matched with his or her personal interests? Were you ever involved in a giving project for a family in difficult circumstances or a missionary overseas?


“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“GIFT-GIVING SEASON” written by Sue Hansen. © 2005 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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