The art of gifting

From postcards to alcohol to a dance, Burning Man is a time to give back


At a festival driven by radical self-expression and participation, what can one give to the Burning Man experience?

“I remember pouring a group of British people a drink, and they had a whole synchronized dance routine and song they performed for me,” said Lacie Hawkins, a third-year attendee of Burning Man. “Genuine displays of individuality and creativity make a gift the most memorable to me.”

There are different views on what makes a gift at Burning Man. Is a gift something material, performance art, or something you can actually use?

Cinde Manson, a fifth-year Burner, likes to pass out postcards.

“Postcards with a stamp you can mail from the Black Rock City Post Office is what I gift,” Manson said. “Black Rock City, Nevada, only exists one week out of the year, so it’s a cool souvenir.”

No stamps are sold at Burning Man. Manson also suggested purchasing postcards with paid international stamps for foreigners to send home from the festival.

Alcoholic beverages seem to be one of the most popular gifts on the playa.

“One of my favorite camps passes out vodka shots mixed with Gatorade, so you are getting your electrolytes and getting drunk at the same time,” said Natasha Nielsen of the Martini Village Camp.

An easy and efficient way to distribute drinks is to have pre-mixed cocktails or shots made in a bottle, then pouring them directly into people’s mouths—after you have confirmed they are 21, of course. Unless you’re scared of getting mono, it’s a simple and waste-free gift option.

Another idea is to provide the most universally beloved gift: food.

“I typically fill a garbage bag full of ice and pass out freshly cut watermelon to people on the open playa,” said Tori Myrmel DeBard, who’s been to Burning Man five times. “It’s hard to carry so many gifts around, that’s why I give watermelon. You eat it, I take your rind, and then you’re done.”

Food is a solid gift choice for virgin Burners who can’t come up with original gift concepts. But beware, you are now required by the Nevada Health Department to have a permit to pass out food to people outside your camp or if you’re feeding a camp with more than 30 people. The regulations do not apply to prepackaged food. For permit details visit

Others seem to favor jewelry or small accessories to wear. It’s easy to get beads and string from a craft store and make personalized necklaces. Homemade bandanas, simply cut from fabric, are useful gifts to protect faces from dust storms.

However, a gift can be just about anything, according to some Burners.

“Someone gave me a lift on their art car during a dust storm, gave me a hug or colorful words in conversation,” said Megan Gozza, who has been attending Burning Man since 2007.”I consider all those gifts.”

Burning Man is about sprouting your individuality and sharing it with the community. Ask yourself what special gift you have to give that no one else does. If you can’t get creative, be practical. And don’t forget to say thank you.