Gift giving in 2020

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Due to COVID-19, many in-person experiences have been hurt, one of them being gift-giving.

I examined her face with extreme caution as we all sat in a large circle on the bed in an anticipating silence. As she slowly lifted the vibrant tissue paper and caught a slight glimpse of the object underneath, I saw a smile and then was showered with “thank you’s” and hugs. She was my family friend and had been my secret santa partner last year. And the greatest part of the entire experience was not receiving my gift, but it was most definitely giving her a gift. However, when COVID-19 struck the country, infringing upon the health and safety of people all over the world, many inconveniences became apparent, especially in gift giving. As a result, people have been scrambling for a solution to still find a way to congratulate, celebrate, or commemorate the quickly approaching holidays, birthdays, and special occasions while continuing to prioritize the welfare of others.

Creative solutions have poured in, including drive by celebrations as well as online gifting. Crystal Yeh (‘24) said that she gave a gift to her friend on her doorstep “while remaining socially distant and wearing masks.” There are several other ways to both give and receive tangible gifts from loved ones and friends while adapting to the unprecedented situation we have found ourselves in. On my birthday in late September, my family friends were struggling to find a way to give me a gift they had been planning for months. Ultimately, they decided that instead of shipping a package from Amazon to their set delivery address, they decided to ship it to my address so the gift would deliver to where I live, which is a solution that people throughout the nation have discovered. Amazon may not have everything that every gift-giver is looking for, but in turn, there are multiple other specifically tailored ecommerce options all online. A drawback of online gift-giving is that buyers are required to buy ahead of time due to shipping times that aren’t present with in-person purchasing. Additionally, people are gifting online by sending gift cards digitally, providing subscriptions to different services, memberships, and more, emphasizing a switch to digital gifts in these different times. Another form of online gifting is through an app that is gaining an increasingly larger popularity called Cameo. Gift givers can spend a fee to have celebrities such as Steve Harvey and Snoop Dogg make individualized videos based on the request given to them. People get to feel like they are able to connect with role models and celebrities they hold in high regard. Hannah Mccarthy (‘24), a user of the app, explained that it is “just something different, and it’s more special and thoughtful than clothes or something else.”

Even if I am now not making strenuous decisions in store aisles but am now pressing add in cart, not watching endless videos on how to put tissue paper in a gift bag but now anxiously reloading my email to find shipping updates, I still will look for a face in anticipation over Zoom, watch their smile as they open their Amazon box, and feel the warmhearted feeling that makes giving a gift so much more rewarding than receiving one.