Is Giving Better than Receiving?

Katherine Barbara Montana discusses the joy of giving during the holiday season, reflecting on her own childhood Christmases and how her understanding of the holiday has changed for the better as she grew.


We’ve all heard the saying before, and it seems to come up much more during the holiday season: “Giving is better than receiving.” The question that often follows this statement is as old as time: is this true?

As a child maybe not. I remember sitting in my room very early on Christmas Day, excitedly waiting for the clock to bring the little hand down to 6:00, the time that my parents always let me and my siblings rush to the living room to see what Santa had left us under the tree (side note: parents do not get enough credit for the little amount of sleep they get on Christmas Eve). I remember one Christmas morning, specifically in 2004, gleefully opening a Barbie doll that I had been begging for for the past few months and thinking, “My teacher was wrong. Giving is so not better than receiving.”

But children grow. And so do our mindsets. Take that Christmas morning in 2004 for example: as I opened that doll, I thought that no joy in the world was greater than mine. But later on, I would learn that of course Santa didn’t actually get me that doll. Since it was one of the hottest toys of the year (anyone remember the singing doll from The Princess and the Pauper?), my mom had looked in several different stores just to find one. To this day, I still cannot thank her enough for going to such great lengths for me. And additionally, I’ll never forgot the look of pure joy on her face when I opened that present.

As I got older and got a job of my own, I was finally able to buy my family presents on my own. To be honest, I did not think about it much that first year leading up to December 25th. I bought the presents around the middle of December and honestly just thought my parents and siblings would take five minutes to open them and then I’d never think about the gifts again. But on Christmas morning, as my family opened up their presents, I couldn’t help but feel tears well up. Suddenly I knew about a part of Christmas that I hadn’t known before, a part of Christmas that is exclusively available to adults and older kids: seeing the smiles and happiness cross your loved ones’ faces as you give them something you picked out specifically for them, and that they appreciate very much.

So yes, in my opinion, giving is much, much better than receiving. Truly, I think the original saying should be, “Giving is ten times better than receiving.” There is a certain magic surrounding the act of giving, something that can never be replicated by simply receiving. Perhaps this magic is why the holiday season is so special to us, and why the world joins together to celebrate a special season of peace and joy. Learning this lesson is unique to everyone, yet just as magical every time.

I hope the gifts that you give this holiday season warm your hearts to the greatest extent. Have a happy holiday!