December may well be the most giving month of the year. Think of it—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, office parties, family get-togethers, gift-exchanges with friends and neighbors, charitable donations. It boggles the mind, all those gifts circulating around out there, a veritable tsunami of love!
We know that a gift should always make the receiver feel valued. However, for all the good intentions and generosity of heart, there are still awkward moments and errors in judgment.
Perhaps some guidelines are in order. Here we present a few rules that have arisen from actual cases.
To the Gift Givers:
1. Please remove the 25-cent garage sale sticker from the item. People understand if you don’t have a lot to spend. They just don’t need to know exactly how little you think of them.
2. Self-help books/items are rarely welcome: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 30 Days, Learn to Control Your Anger, Dressing with Class. Julie’s mother-in-law presented her with a drugstore bottle of brown hair dye for Christmas. Blonde Julie did not find this helpful.
3. Never say, “I had to think for a really long time about whether I wanted to spend that much money.” Even assuming Ned’s bumbling good intentions, Ellen didn’t feel the love.
4. When gifting something you found in your grandmother’s basement, please wash off the sticky goo with the dust-fur clinging to it. No one likes having to disinfect their gift.
5. Never say, “I hope you like this because I got it on sale and can’t return it.” Umm, sounds like a possible future re-gift, but thanks.
6. When someone specifically asks for X, don’t give them Y just because you like it better. It forces them to feign pleasure, and they still don’t have X.
7. If you are re-gifting, it only arouses suspicion if you continually ask, “Is it alright? Are you sure? You really do like it?”
8. It’s bad form to give an obviously used item (faded, worn, finish wearing off) unless it has special value and a story to go with it—a family heirloom, a valued item with an interesting history. The refurbished off-brand watch your high school boyfriend gave you 30 years ago doesn’t fall into that category.
9. Nothing says, “After all these years I know absolutely nothing about you,” like admitting you had a friend pick out the gift. “Hope you like it!” Next year I’ll just exchange gifts with your friend.
10. And lastly, it can be embarrassing to re-gift in front of others, one of whom originally gave the present to you.
For the Recipients:
There is only one rule here: Smile, be gracious, say “Thank you.” If pressed to say more about an unwelcome gift, comment favorably on the color, its potential usefulness, or its uniqueness.
If the gift is utterly horrible, about all you can say is, “Wow, Harvey, I think you’ve really outdone yourself this year,” which can mean anything from, “This is the greatest gift you’ve ever given me,” to “This even tops the garbage you’ve given me in the past.” Just don’t be rude.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Gifting!