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Meaningful Gift

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"You saved me, Father. You lowered a bucket into the well of my despair and you raised me up to the light of day. I thank you for that."
Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III upon being given a childhood memento, M*A*S*H, "Dear Sis"

There are many occasions and reasons why someone might give someone else a gift. Maybe it's their birthday or a holiday like Christmas. Maybe it's a romantic gesture. It might even be something to show someone that they're appreciated, particularly when they're feeling low.

Gifts can be hit or miss. Some people might just decide to give a gift card, deciding it's best to let the person decide for themselves what they want. But not this situation. The person who gives the Meaningful Gift put thought and effort into it, and the gift reflects just how well they know the person receiving it. No one will consider regifting in this situation unless it's to pass down the gift to one's offspring, years down the road.

Sometimes this can even evoke a Heroic Second Wind or a Heel–Face Turn.

Can overlap with It Was a Gift, Apology Gift, and Tragic Keepsake. Compare with Your Favorite. Contrast with My New Gift Is Lame, and Gift-Giving Gaffe. Examples of Gift of the Magi Plot that are played straight belong on that page due to the super/sub-trope relationship. See also Prized Possession Giveaway, where the gifted item has just as much meaning, or more, to the giver as the recipient.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Asteroid in Love: During their time at the hot springs, the Earth Sciences Club heard from the other users about Endou-sensei's burnout issues. On the next day, Mira gives Endou a gift of... bath salts, she she heard that the hot springs is actually one of Endou's biggest breathers.
  • I Can't Believe I Slept with You: Chiyo is out shopping and finds a set of earrings patterned after constellations. Knowing of Ritsuka's love of astronomy, she buys them for her, even choosing clip-on type since she noticed Ritsuka's ears aren't pierced. After talking it over with a friend, Chiyo decides to give them to her as a Christmas present. When she receives them, Ritsuka is clearly moved and asks Chiyo to put them on for her.
  • My-HiME: After a trying day of a makeup cooking lesson that took the form of a baking contest, as well as a fight with an Orphan, Mai returns to her dorm room to discover that her brother and classmates have thrown her a surprise party for her birthday. She is given a karaoke microphone, showing how her friends know her, as karaoke has been established as Mai's favorite pass time.
  • Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Episode 17:Out of the Forest of Memory; Sanada gives Susumu Kodai a book of poetry written by Chuya Nakahara that had been given to Sanada earlier by Mamoru Kodai, Susumu's late older brother. Susumu had never known before of his brother's love of poetry, and the book is a memento of him.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: After the "Fatal Attractions" story arc, Wolverine leaves the Westchester mansion to go on a healing journey. He leaves behind letters for three people, Jean, Xavier, and Jubilee. Jubilee got one extra gift, Wolverine's Stetson. Since Wolverine survives, and he and Jubilee were able to reunite later, it averts Tragic Keepsake, but the hat remains one of Jubilee's most treasured possessions.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • In The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, Lucy surprises Emmet with not one, but three gifts in the film's epilogue to show him how much she loves him. Not only did she rebuild the house he made (which got destroyed earlier in the film), but she also recovered Planty for him and gave him an original album of his favorite song, "Everything is Awesome!", with none other than Lucy herself on the cover.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Christmas Story: Ralphie spends the entire movie desperate for just one gift — a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. When Christmas comes, he gets a couple of things that he likes, not the gun, which he reluctantly accepts when sitting with his parents. Then his dad points to one final present hidden behind the desk; the B.B. Gun, because he had one when he was a kid. Both of them light up with childlike joy when he's opening the box, and what makes this even more special is that his dad is the only one whom Ralphie didn't approach to ask about the gun.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Subverted. The gifts given to Kirk for his birthday are thoughtful and reflect the knowledge the givers have of the Admiral. Spock gives him a copy of A Tale of Two Cities because he "knows of his fondness for antiques". Bones gives him a pair of reading glasses, knowing that Kirk is allergic to a medication that would have improved his vision. In fact, it's worth noting that Kirk is later seen reading the book with those glasses on his way to the Enterprise to run an inspection. But the gifts don't make him happy, because as Bones observes, Kirk would prefer to be "out there hopping galaxies" instead of bound to desk duty, the one thing his friends can't give him.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Jon gives his Tomboy half-sister Arya a specially sized sword as a going-away present, knowing that she envies her brothers their swordsmanship training. It remains a cherished heirloom of her old life for long after.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: A couple of instances:
    • Penny gives Sheldon a cloth napkin from The Cheesecake Factory signed by Leonard Nimoy, one of Sheldon's most beloved actors. Penny apologizes that it's a little dirty, as Leonard had wiped his mouth with it. Sheldon is even more ecstatic.
    Sheldon: I possess the DNA of Leonard Nimoy?!
    • Amy's birthday falls on the same day as the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but with some prompting, Sheldon is encouraged to spend the day with her. When discussing possible gift ideas for her, Sheldon decides, to the shock of Penny, with whom he discusses the idea, that he will do the one thing that Amy has been hoping for since her relationship with Sheldon began: initiate a sexual relationship with her.
    • In "The Romance Resonance":
      • When Bernadette ends up getting stuck in quarantine on the anniversary of their first date, Howard brings all their friends with him to perform the song he wrote for her outside her window, which makes her cry with happiness.
      • Subverted when Penny, attempting to prove she can be romantic to Leonard, buys him a first edition of his favorite childhood book... only for him to reveal he already bought it for himself. Double subverted when she reveals she has kept a memento of every meaningful gift Leonard ever bought her, which moves Leonard more than a gift ever could.
    • Sheldon attempts to weaponize this in "The Clean Room Infiltration", as revenge for Amy forcing him to celebrate Christmas. Since they agreed not to get each other presents, he goes out of his way to get her a personal gift that will make her feel so guilty, she'll never make him celebrate again. This backfires when Amy reveals she did get Sheldon a present - she made his favorite cookies from his Meemaw's recipe. It touches him enough to make him briefly reconsider his stance on Christmas.
    • In "The Friendship Turbulence", Penny is fretting over her failing acting career, capped off by the fact that her car has broken down and she has no money to fix it. Leonard, after spending much of the episode encouraging her to do something more practical over acting, offers to drive her to the Cheesecake Factory to get her old waitress job back... before revealing that he actually bought her a car so she can drive to auditions.
  • Bones: In The Man in the Fallout Shelter, the gang are trapped in the Jeffersonian by a Contamination Situation that could keep them in over Christmas. They decide to make the best of it and hold their own Christmas with improvised decorations and presents, but Booth is still annoyed that he didn't get to go Christmas shopping for his son. When they open presents, he finds that Zach has given his the robot he was working on earlier, explaining that, "I thought, if we get out on time, you could give it to your son." He does, and Tyler loves it.
  • Castle: In one episode, everyone is discussing what they'd do if they won the lottery, except for Beckett. Castle eventually figures out what it is she'd do with the money; establish a scholarship for lawyers who intended to help underprivileged clients, just like her mother. So, with Beckett's permission, Castle establishes the Johanna Beckett Scholarship Fund.
  • Dog with a Blog: In "Bark! The Herald Angels Sing", it's revealed that Avery disliked most of the Christmas presents she received from her mother and she worries it would happen the same that year. She is relieved after she sees that Tyler and Chloe got what they wanted, only to be the only one with a bad gift. After Allen finds out her daughter disliked all the Christmas gifts from her, she makes the effort to buy something to show that she does know Avery. She succeeds when she gives her a gift card.
  • Frasier: At the end of "Frasier Grinch", Frasier and his dad go ahead and open each other's presents on Christmas Eve, with Frasier already feeling down about not getting his son the correct present (an Outlaw Laser Robo Geek). Frasier opens his gift and begins to tear up... because his dad bought him an Outlaw Laser Robo Geek, knowing he'd need it.
  • In the Friends episode "The One With The Dirty Girl", Chandler has a crush on Joey's girlfriend Kathy. Chandler knows that her favorite book is The Velveteen Rabbit, so he goes to extreme lengths to get her a first edition. However, Ross points out it will seem weird if Chandler gives the book when her boyfriend Joey will go Convenience Store Gift Shopping. In the end, Chandler gives the book in Joey's name, but Kathy knows who really sent it, mainly because Joey thought it was called The Velveeta Rabbit.
    Ross: How do you think it's gonna look when you get her something incredibly meaningful and expensive and her boyfriend Joey gives her an orange?
  • House of the Dragon: Valyrian steel is classically used for blades. It's known for its functional characteristics, not its aesthetics. Its color is fairly dull, so it's not an obvious choice for jewelry. When Daemon Targaryen gives his niece Rhaenyra a Valyrian steel necklace, the point is that it's Valyrian, a symbol of their heritage. Daemon and Rhaenyra speak High Valyrian to each other, while her parents speak Common to her and to each other. Daemon and Rhaenyra are Dragon Riders, while her parents are not. Daemon has his own Valyrian steel heirloom in the form of Dark Sister. The necklace is just one more symbol of the idea that the two of them are more in touch with their Valyrian history and culture than their other family members are.
    Daemon: Now you and I both own a small piece of our ancestry.
  • M*A*S*H: In "Dear Sis", Radar, on the advice of Father Mulcahy, contacts Maj. Winchester's parents, explaining that the Major was not adjusting well to his environment and asked to send him something that would make him feel better. Winchester is delighted and amazed to see his old toboggan cap, which brings back memories of his childhood. So moved is Winchester, he gives Mulcahy a large donation for the orphanage he looks after, telling him, "Buy the orphans whatever they need." He then adds even more money, saying, "Buy them what they don't need."
  • The Office (US): In "Christmas Party", Jim has Pam as his recipient for Secret Santa. He buys her a teapot that she wants and fills it with mementos representing their inside jokes, as well as a note (presumably declaring his love for her). Things go horribly awry when Michael abruptly changes Secret Santa into Yankee Swap and everyone's presents are switched. Pam winds up with her teapot in the end, but Jim removes the note at the last minute.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ron spends most of "Eagleton" in dread of his upcoming birthday party, only to find that his friend Leslie has actually gotten him a nice, quiet evening to himself with his favorite foods and movies.
  • Schitt's Creek: In "Grad Night", David's business partner Patrick offers to take him out for a birthday dinner. Insisting it is Not a Date, David invites Stevie along. When Patrick goes to the restroom, Stevie notices he has brought a gift for David and says if the present is anything sentimental then she is definitely crashing a date. The gift is the framed receipt from David and Patrick's first sale. David is touched, and Stevie quickly excuses herself.
  • Seinfeld: Averted and played straight simultaneously in the episode where Elaine's birthday is coming up, and Jerry is stressing over what to get her. He can't make up his mind since he is obsessing over what hidden meaning she would look for in any gift, so he ends up giving her cash, which really pisses her off. Kramer, on the other hand, remembers that months ago she admired a small decorative bench, and gets her that along with a heartfelt card, which makes her both very happy and teary-eyed.
  • Victorious: Invoked by Sikowitz. He makes his class do a Secret Santa and tells everyone that they must give a meaningful gift. Tori is assigned Andre and she spends much of the episode thinking of something meaningful for him. Towards the end of the episode, she's approached by Jade who reveals that she's Tori's secret Santa. Her gift to Tori is an idea for a gift to Andre: They perform a song he wrote in front of his teacher to boost a bad grade that he'd been moping around all episode.

    Video Games 
  • Choice of the Vampire: Downplayed as it's an educated guess, but when romancing the voodoo priestess Clotho, you can decide that a goat would be a more practical gift than jewellery or flowers. She seems pleasantly surprised.
  • Invoked with gifts for the companions in Dragon Age: Origins. For each of your humanoid companions, there is one particular gift item which can be found during the course of the game and presented to them for a short cutscene in which they express their deep appreciation. There are other gifts which can be given to the companions as well (especially if the Feastday Gifts DLC has been installed), but they each have one extremely special gift which the Warden can give them as a sign of their friendship. In the case of three of the potential love interests (Alistair, Zevran, and Morrigan), they can also give the Warden a gift as a symbol of the deepening relationship.


    Western Animation 
  • Arthur's Perfect Christmas: Arthur wants to buy the best gift ever for his mother, a small glass bird to replace one he'd broken a few years ago. Unfortunately, his uncle's dog keeps treating his present like a toy, and when he tries to hide it at the top of the closet, the box falls and the bird shatters. When his uncle finds him crying, he decides to help Arthur out by using the present tag to present his gift as Arthur's, which is just as meaningful — replacing a broken tea set, rather than a broken bird.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Defying the Gift of the Magi Plot, Jeremy and Candace get each other gifts that absolutely reflect their knowledge of each other. Candace had sold a necklace to get Jeremy a silver guitar he'd been eyeing, and Jeremy had sold his old guitar to get Candace a pair of earrings that she'd been looking at. The two of them are delighted with how well they know each other.
  • The Simpsons: In "Simpsons Christmas Stories", Homer has forgotten to buy Marge a Christmas present, and is afraid to go home without one. However, Marge isn't upset. She gives Homer his gift: a pre-wrapped present for him to give to her since she knows he always forgets. Thus, Homer does have a present after all. Marge unwraps it and it's a nice Christmas photo of the two of them.