My family celebrates Ayyám-i-Há, a period of four days, or five in leap years, of special hospitality, philanthropy, parties, and gift giving. Because these days are separate from any month, and flexible for the leap year, they are also called “intercalary days.” These days come immediately before the nineteen-day month of fasting for members of the Bahá’í Faith. The month of fasting is the last month of the year, devoted to detachment and reflection on the past year and renewal for the next new year which begins with the Spring Equinox (the fasting is only done during the daylight hours, not all day long, and there are many exemptions: pregnancy, illness, age, etc.).
So we decorate the house, and party for several days.
On one of those days my family gives gifts. When my children were little, I wanted them to receive lots of gifts, but I had little money and I didn’t want the house, or their lives, cluttered with stuff. So, some of the gifts I gave were consumable. They delighted in the boxes of cookies or granola bars they didn’t have to share. I gradually added other consumables, such as tiny tubes of toothpaste and even rolls of toilet paper. They all received the same, though the brands might differ. Travel size tolitrees are excellent for this. When one of the children would open one of these gifts, the others knew they were in line for one too, but not necessarily identical. They would groan, but they knew that’s what Dad did! Opening the gifts was still exciting – you didn’t really know what you might get!
I did the same for my grandchildren.
When these gifts were all eatable, the grand kids were delighted. When I began to add other items, they were surprised. One little boy, after he unwrapped his first gift roll of toilet paper, he was so shocked – he threw it across the room. Fortunately, it was only toilet paper. Over the years they, also, have come to expect these surprises from Granpa.
They also know that the box they unwrap may be re-used with different contents than advertised on the outside of the box. Therefore, contents are always a surprise. When opening one box, with granola bars pictured on the outside, not believing they might be the contents, one child ripped up the box so quickly, the granola bars spewed across the room. He was really surprised as was everyone else watching them fly!
As far as I’m concerned, it is the surprise that’s important, not the content. In that vein, one year I announced a new family gift giving motto: “If it’s new to you, it’s new enough!” We can all, now, head to the thrift stores with a clear conscious!!!
One recent year, the kids began to laugh as their wrapped gifts were given to me. I had no idea why. There were snickers and glances from one to the other. I was clueless.
When I began to open my gifts, I discovered: a can of peas, a can of green beans, a roll of toilet paper, etc. I roared …. with laughter! I was delighted!!!
They had conspired together to turn the tables on me! It was a wonderful joke. We all laughed so hard, we couldn’t see. I will never forget that Ayyám-i-Há!!! It was the highlight of them all!