I pulled the shiny new penny out of my wallet. I had gotten the wallet for Christmas and had put all my things in it. My last wallet lasted nearly 20 years, so this new wallet was going to be a friend for many years. It was exactly what I wanted, a minimalist wallet with no additional features. Just a place for money a few cards and that was it. Upon opening the box and seeing the wallet, I had immediately took everything out of my old wallet and filled the new one. I unceremoniously placed my old duct tape riddled thread bear wallet in the trash. Three days later the gift giver asked about the penny. Had I found the penny?
"What penny?" I asked.
"The one in the wallet," was the reply. The confused look on my face must have indicated that I had not found the penny. "Don't you know that when you give a wallet you are supposed to put money in it?"
"No, I did not know that," was my reply. Later I emptied the wallet and found the penny deep in the inner corner. Immediately, I began to wonder what other traditions about giving I did not know. Google was able to school me.
Giving an empty wallet is like wishing poverty on someone, while putting something in it implies that the recipient will always have their needs met. I'm glad my Santa knew this one.
In many places in the world (Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Switzerland for example), giving a knife is like saying I want to cut you, or I want to be cut off from you. How then do you give a knife, which is quite useful? You give one with a penny taped to it. Then the person gives you the penny thereby "buying" it and thus it is no longer a gift and the threat is on longer a problem. I got a knife this Christmas with no penny attached. I'm starting to wonder.
In some Asian cultures, giving a clock or a watch is like saying, your time has run out, why not go ahead and die. There is no way to give these as gifts. The only way around it is to give money, as long as it is not in even amounts, which apparently is bad. I kept reading about mirrors, shoes, and then I came across umbrellas. Not supposed to give them, but I have two of the coolest that I am giving this weekend. The fine print says this is true for China. I'm relieved that I am giving them in Dallas.
When God gave a gift to us, God chose the best gift-his own presence, his own love, his own son. The only stipulation, that we receive the gift and say, 'yes" to the gift. It is the same for every person everywhere.