The Best Gifts Come in Many Forms

The time for giving is upon us. Maybe you aren’t into the whole production of Christmas. Perhaps you celebrate in other ways. Maybe you’d rather give than receive. Regardless, the holiday season is filled with memories and nostalgia. Even many freethinkers can think back to time spent with loved ones, unwrapping gifts, or marveling at thousands of glimmering lights. As we approach the gift-giving season, AHA staffers reminisce about their favorite presents.

For AHA Director of Communications and Development Maggie Ardiente, it’s the simple things in life that really matter, even if you don’t notice right away.

I know it’s silly, but one of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a rubber band ball, a stocking stuffer gift from my then-boyfriend’s stepmother. I couldn’t help but initially think it was a re-gift or otherwise thoughtless present, so I stuck it in my kitchen drawer and forgot about it. But then, throughout the year, I found myself finding all kinds of reasons to use rubber bands, mostly for food storage, and two years later I actually used all the rubber bands and had to buy a new ball! I saw the gift giver a couple of years later and thanked her profusely for the very useful gift.

To Web Content Manager Peter Bjork, the best gift is a well-planned and much deserved escape.

During Christmas 2011 (yeah, yeah, I’m an atheist who celebrates Christmas), my boyfriend and I were living in London. Taking into account the stress of holiday travel (and the huge cost of transatlantic flights) and the painfully high cost of living in London, we decided that year to scrap seeing family and exchanging presents to instead save up for a present to ourselves: spending New Year’s on a beach in Cape Town, South Africa. And so, the day after the most low-key Christmas I’ve ever experienced, we left gray skies and constant forty-degree weather behind to spend the next two weeks in sunny, summery Cape Town. It worked a little too well, though, and I’ve been dying to get back ever since…

Projects Assistant Jessica Xiao finds that the joy of gifts comes from the thought behind them.

I’m lucky to have grown up in fortunate circumstances. My parents could afford to buy my sisters and me presents from our wish lists—usually the latest gaming console or the like—on all occasions in which gift-giving is customary. But the best part of our secular Christmas tradition is my mom’s determination to surprise us each year. Beginning just after Black Friday, she stashes shopping bags filled with gifts around the house in unexpected hidden locations, plants decoys, and misleads us by saying “I didn’t know what to get you guys this year…so don’t expect anything other than [that thing you already knew she bought].” Predictably, each year, we suspect we’ll be surprised—and end up surprised anyway. I’ve inherited that determination to give the best, most memorable gift, to a competitive level—and let’s just say I’m looking forward to Christmas this year!

Communications Associate Merrill Miller’s favorite gift was one every past or present college student can understand: toiletries!

The best Christmas presents I received were the ones I got when I was a college student and frequently short on cash. Often they were little things that in and of themselves might not seem very special, but for someone on a tight budget, they really meant a lot. My parents would buy me groceries on my way back to campus, and my grandmother would fill a little stocking with small items like tissues, toothpaste, and nail polish. Getting them from my family meant that I didn’t need to buy them myself, and I appreciated their thoughtfulness.

For Grassroots and Celebrant Program Coordinator Rachael Berman, the best gift can be found in a specific book…as well as many other bests and “ests”!

The best Christmas gift that I have ever received is the Guinness Book of World Records. Ever since I was a child, the Guinness Book of World Records has been one of my favorite books. My mom has purchased the new edition for me as a Christmas present every single year without fail. It’s become a tradition for me to open up this gift first on Christmas morning. I usually end up spending the entire morning reading it, forgetting to open up any other presents.