Jonas learns of love during his training with the Giver when the Giver shows him the memory of a family celebrating Christmas together. In the memory, the setting is warm and joyful. It is picture perfect. There is a large decorated Christmas tree in the center of the family living room, which is full of people. There is a fire in the fireplace to provide warmth and enhance the atmosphere of a snug family celebration, as it is snowing outside. A golden-haired retriever is asleep on the floor.
The extended family, including grandparents, is gathered around to exchange gifts. After a small child opens a gift, he goes to his grandmother and climbs on to her lap. She cradles him and rubs her cheek against his.
Jonas is very surprised by the scene, as he has never seen what he terms "old people." In his community, older adults are kept in a special care facility and do not interact with their families. In fact, they are never seen in the community. Jonas asks the Giver who the old people in the memory were and why they were there. The author notes,
It had puzzled Jonas, seeing them in the room. The Old of the community did not ever leave their special place, the House of the Old, where they were so well cared for and respected.
Jonas also cannot describe the feeling that he discerned the family shared, particularly when the grandmother rocked her young grandson in her lap. The Giver tells him the feeling is "love." Jonas realizes that he had never thought much about what his relationship with his parents would be once he becomes an adult. He acknowledges that he will probably never see them after he leaves his home. In this society, people do not form strong ties, and love is not a concept that he recognizes. This is what enables Jonas's father to participate in Gabriel's release. He might think that it is a pity that Gabriel must be released and finds Gabriel sweet, but he has no strong ties to Gabriel or even to Jonas or Lily. No one in this society has strong feelings towards one another.