Fiona Graham, Head of Content   08 December 2015

Have we forgotten the true meaning of gift-giving? Picture: Jimmie

The holiday season is well and truly underway.

Thanksgiving and Diwali kicked-off the celebrations. Now the Hanukkah candles are being lit and Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year are racing towards us.

It’s traditionally a time when we share gifts with the ones we love. But somehow that has also made it a season of empty wallets and frantic consumerism.

So do we really still believe that “it is the thought that counts”?

National Guard soldiers unload gifts donated for residents of the North Dakota Veterans Home. Picture: The US Army

Here at WorldRemit we decided to find out if the true spirit of gift-giving is still alive, or if we now measure love by how much our nearest and dearest spend.

We asked our Facebook community, and surveyed 1,000 people in the US, to see what the greatest gift they’d ever received was.

The answers we got are likely to warm the heart of even the most hardened cynic.

85% of people said they appreciated ‘life gifts’ such as forgiveness or companionship more than they valued financial gifts.  

The top life gift, for 28% of people, was support through difficult times.

This was closely followed by companionship at 25%.

After all, what good are material possessions if you have no one to share them with?

The rest of the top five answers also focused on our relationships - guidance on values (16%) and a second chance or forgiveness (10%).

And proving that we as a species are still capable of caring about people we may not even know, 9% of us have experienced a random act of kindness from a stranger.


Dickens' A Christmas Carol teaches that people are more important than possessions. Picture: Loren Javier

Even when it came to the most prized financial gift, people were more interested in the lives of their loved ones than material things.

The top answer, given by 35% of those asked, was funding for education.  

Our Facebook community agreed.

Most of the top five answers related to an important life event or occasion, with the possible exception of number two on the list, help to buy a car (19%).

Giving someone an education is a gift that will last much longer than Christmas. Picture: COD Newsroom

This was followed by down payment on a house (19%), money for a wedding (17%), the trip of a lifetime (9%) and medical expenses (7%).

For many WorldRemit customers that trip of a lifetime was not for a holiday, but a reunion with loved ones after years apart.

The legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris. Picture: José María Mateos

It seems that deep down we know what matters most in this world, even if we sometimes get a little distracted by the material stuff.

Perhaps there’s hope for us all yet.

Survey results in full:

What’s the greatest financial gift you’ve ever received?

1.         Funding for education                                     35%

2.         Money towards a car                                      19%

3.         Down-payment for a home                             17%

4.         Trip of a lifetime                                               9%

5.         Medical expenses                                            7%

What’s the greatest life gift you’ve ever received?

1.         Support through difficult times                      28%

2.         Companionship                                             24%

3.         Guidance on values/morals                          16%    

4.         Second chance/forgiveness                         10%

5.         Random act of kindness from a stranger      9%

Survey carried out by Google Consumer Survey’s in the US on 25 November 2015. Sample size 1,000.