Holiday Gift Etiquette

Many people, myself included, have hobbies such as sewing, painting or general crafting. I wanted to post a reality check for these people before the holidays.

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The purpose of a gift is to show how much you value the recipient or thank them for something they've done; nothing else. It doesn't have to be expensive; just thoughtful.

It is not, not, not an opportunity for you to show off your hobby, what you believe to be your skills or what you believe to be your "good taste" (as in something entirely different from what the recipient likes).

Unless the recipient already wears the exact homespun style of homemade clothing you create or has actually paid you for paintings; it is not their taste no matter how polite they are in their praise. Someone who never wears wools or knits doesn't want your crochet or knitted items. They might not even be able to wear them due to allergies, etc but they shouldn't have to explain that to you. A gift is meant to be welcoming and thoughtful.

You shouldn't give a gift with the expectation of anything more than a polite thank you. Giving a gift to someone doesn't obligate the recipient to wear whatever you made them or eat whatever you enjoy cooking or use their home as a display of your gifts. Gifts shouldn't be used to lay guilt trips on anyone.

You might love to bake cookies and give out the same dishes to everyone but people who eat healthy or are watching calories/sugar intake simply have no use for them. Consider a group platter instead where you can take your dish home after the gathering.

You might also love to make up little jars of cookie or soup mix but how insulting is it to give one to someone who hates to bake or cook?

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My coworker makes pumpkin butter every year. She jars the rest as Christmas gifts which no one in our dept can stand. She hounds people to pick up their labeled "gift" and then pursues them incessantly for the return of the jars and complains for weeks if one gets accidentally broken. Make sure you aren't making what should be a token of appreciation into a hated annual event so you can "use up" something.

You might love your ceramics class but if the person doesn't keep knick-knacks all over their home; the recipient does not want them. Don't try to convince the recipient how great what you like is. They have their own taste and you shouldn't use a holiday gift as a chance to disrespect them.

If someone has pets; understand that they love their pets. Your opinion on how they should keep their pets does not matter. You make yourself unwelcome by dropping hints about how your gifts wouldn't be "trashed" or how you could get them something "nicer" if the recipient would only control their cat or dog.

Make yourself a cherished friend by giving them a pet friendly gift, instead of complaining that the cat has made a pull in the blanket you crocheted to drape over the recipient's couch; accept that the cat loves your gift and your recipient has been kind enough to display it in their home or make the cat a little crocheted blanket or bed of their own.

IF you want to give out your leftovers, garden surplus, etc, understand they are not gifts. Be polite and ask if anyone wants them first. Try to use disposable containers or boxes as much as possible.

Also, having a female to buy for does not mean they automatically like crafts or homespun items!

I have 3 girls and 1 boy. It's been very upsetting for my girls to be asked what they want for holidays only to be ignored and receive homemade clothing (that's never "just like" what's in style) and be made to feel guilty because they will not wear them. My son almost always receives items he actually enjoys and even he has begun to take offense to the grandmother and aunts who use holidays as an excuse to unload their homemade items. (My kids have been taught about asking for very reasonable gifts only if they are asked.)

Yes, times are tough. If you have limited resources for gifting, you can still be thrifty and creative but above all it should be thoughtful.

Don't ask to just "have gifts for the kids" when others have no children. That's rude beyond measure. In truth you are telling people to just give gifts to your children.

My youngest brother had a tough time when he was in grad school, but he always brought the kids gifts they loved; many of which he picked up for free. We gave him gifts, but I told him not to give me or my husband anything as it was unfair and he just couldn't afford it. He protested a bit but what are big sister's for?

Also be considerate of larger families. Don't make those kids feel unwanted or unvalued. Try to spend about the same on each child; regardless of how many in a family. Even if you cut down on what you spend per child all around. It will make a lifetime worth of difference in your relationship with those kids.

Finally, the gifts you just don't use are not desirable for regifting. Your postman doesn't want the tie you hate no matter how expensive you believe it to be or what designer it is. But if let's say my daughter started using the purse someone made for me (I never use a purse); take it as the compliment that it is.

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Above all, a gift should be thoughtful and personal; making the person feel special and appreciated.

By dh8 from Juneau AK

Answers:

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Dear DH8,

I have only one word to say about your post. Yeah!

Someone who's been there (09/26/2008)

By readingiggits

Holiday Gift Etiquette

While I agree with some of your points in general, I do feel that your post can be viewed as rather selfish, thinking only from the view of the recipient and not both sides.

A gift is just that - not obligation - a gift. No one should demand or expect one - it should be received in as thoughtful and gracious a manner as it is given, even if it is not to one's taste. it is the "thought" that counts - not the object. (09/26/2008)

By Celeste

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Amen. Doesn't sound selfish to me - more a reality check, like stated at the beginning. May I also add that unless you know your child's teacher very, very well, I would not recommend making her homemade treats. Would you welcome food prepared under goodness knows what conditions. (And on the flip side, teachers, if you get homemade goodies you're not sure of, you do have the grace to thank the giver profusely and say you're saving them for later--you try to watch what you eat, and only eat such goodies with supper.....don't you?)

Do what you will at home. Better yet, before the holidays send a note home suggesting if families want to give a gift, a simple book for the class library would be the best gift of all
www.organizedchristmas.com
has some cute novelties you can make (check out "snowman soup"), that, accompanied by a cute card (handmade is fine) and a nice note make an appropriate gift for teachers, etc.

And don't forget that a child as young as 3 or 4 will enjoy a gift card (my nieces and nephews love a Walmart gift card); and to them, ten dollars is a lot of money. You don't have to break the bank or spend more than what you had planned. Teachers, etc. love a five or ten dollar gift card to the local gas/convenience store. (09/26/2008)

By Jilson

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Hi dh8,


I just love it when someone takes the time to make a gift for me. They could pop out to the store, but instead their spent part of their precious life just for me.

My husband and I don't eat sweets because of his medical problems. When friends give us trays of homemade cookies, I rejoice. When I serve them, I share the thoughtfulness of that friend to care enough to make me something, knowing I will not regift, just share during an evening of fellowship with visitors.

I have homemade things all over my house. When friends come I tell them about all my special friends and their clever ability to do something thoughtful just for me.

My house may never be on the pages of home beautiful, but it is filled with the love and skill of my many friends.

Gifts are sunshine in my life. I don't care what it is, I love it before I even open it.

My cup is always full, because I see the love and joy the gift was meant to resonate.

As the holidays near, I eagerly look forward to all the new things I'll be able to display in my home.

I know I'm not saying this well, but send me anything and I'll be happy! That is why I love all of my "thrifty" friends. You share your crafts, ideas and allow me to pass them on to my friends. Yes, I brag about every one of you! (09/26/2008)

By Tedebear

Holiday Gift Etiquette

About five years ago, my family picked many blueberries and then I made jam which we gave out as Christmas presents. We only did it that one year, and I still have people asking me when I'm going to do that again. I've canned salsa and done the same thing, and I haven't had the time in the last couple of years to can salsa, but my family, neighbors, friends, and extended family never let me forget that they'd really like for me to put aside time to do that again.

I love to sew but don't typically sew for other people as presents because I never know what they'll like and don't want to invest the time doing something someone else may not appreciate. However, when I have sewn things, I've made them very personal. For instance, I took one of my mother's robes, cut it up, and used the fabric to make a robe for my daughter. My daughter practically lived in that robe because it made her think of her grandmother; my mother loved it because she loved that my daughter loved it.

My point here is that you shouldn't discount gifts just because they're homemade. Yes, I agree that many homemade gifts are not appreciated and that we need to be very careful that we aren't imposing our gifts on people. However, your broad statements belittling homemade gifts are hurtful for those of us who have successfully figured out which recipients appreciate those goodies, which do not, which homemade things make good gifts, and which do not. (09/26/2008)

By tsiegl

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Whatever happened to the idea that it is the thought that counts? Many people make gifts because to them, it shows they care enough to take some time and effort to actually make a gift for the recipient. So what if you have two, or don't like homemade? Some people want to do something special, but can't afford to buy expensive gifts and opt to make them. I think knowing how to be gracious when receiving a gift whether you like it or not, is something that never goes out of style. (09/26/2008)

By Jennifer

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Oh my goodness!

If someone receives an item that is not to their taste or expectations all they simply have to do is give a sincere thank you and donate it to a homeless shelter, food bank, church, Goodwill or Salvation Army! I guarantee 'someone' will have use, need and appreciation for it!

As for the co-worker who pesters and wants her jars back, I think it would make a great point to say that it was donated to the local homeless shelter because those people happened to be more needy than you and that it was much appreciated!

And why do people feel they have to give a gift to everyone including children? For at least a decade my family, friends and co-workers have drawn names and set a limit on the amount of the gift! Everyone appreciates their 'one gift' much more and it gives focus to the real reason for the season! (09/26/2008)

By Deeli

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I like all the posts. I agree with a lot of points that were made. I think it is great to share ideas and I have seen pretty much all of these situations re. gifts.
I tell my children think of the giver, not the gift.

I think it is good to think of either the person working to make the money to buy the gift or the person making the gift with their talents and time. I understand all points. I have received gifts from friends that made me wonder if they even knew me. I have also loved getting homemade gifts. I always think of the giver. I love the robe idea for the little girl, think it is adorable and obviously you are a great cook. The pumpkin butter lady should have caught on that it was not a loved item. To bug people for the jar back is too weird. I can a lot so I understand needing the jars, but to expect them back I believe is too much.

I think all of your comments on both sides have value and thanks for reminding us of them. I take these suggestions in the spirit I believe they were given, to help people think a bit more about the person we are giving a gift to. I think picking out gifts is sometimes so hard as you want the person to love it but sometimes this is hard to achieve. Thanks to all. onorall (09/26/2008)

By onorall

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I'm a teacher. I get tons of chocolate every Christmas. I also get homemade candy, quick breads, and cake. I never eat it, as I am watching my weight. I write a thank you note to the student, and leave the goodies in the main office. Most of my colleagues have no problem eating it, and it's not in my house. I may take a box home for my children, but they are getting older and feel the same way as I do.

My students are very nice to think of me during the season, and I appreciate that, even though the gift is not what I would have picked out for myself.

My point is that a gift is just that, a gift, and you can't expect it to be something that you want or need.
(09/26/2008)

By Judy

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I too am sorry the original poster has had such bad experiences with gifts. You might consider the unwelcome gifts as opportunities to teach your children to accept and appreciate the thought behind the gift. A gift no matter how unwanted, is still a gift and has taken thought and effort by the giver.

Consider what your attitude and example is teaching your children. (09/26/2008)

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Oh, I don't think dh8 "doesn't enjoy the simple joy of giving or receiving" as one poster said. As someone who's been there and experienced how darn out-of-hand gift giving (especially around the winter holidays) has gotten (people trying to out-spend or out-craft each other, etc.), I think she makes a lot of good points.

I mean, you can just wear yourself out, both shopping and/or hand making gifts for people, around the holidays and this whole holiday thing has gotten away from the whole point; celebrate whatever winter holiday your belief-system is and quit worrying so much about all this darn decorating, cooking and gift giving. It's gotten nuts, folks, totally away from the idea of "thrifty fun"! And to answer the saying "that time of year (whichever winter holiday you believe in) is for the kids, so let's go all out"; it's the perfect time to teach kids about thrifty living! (09/26/2008)

By Lynn from Calif.

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Wow! Lots of comments here that have merit. It's a fine line between giving someone something that they want and reminding them of you. I hate giving gifts that I don't like myself, but want to please the giftee. If you get something you don't like, "Pass on the blessing," because a blessing is what it is, after all.

Homemade or purchased at a thrift store or yard sale; it makes no difference to me. Too many people (not just kids) don't know how to say thank you, because they don't understand the value of a gift. Try reading O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi," to refresh your memory. Be thoughtful, not selfish in your giving. Be thankful, not expectant, in receiving a gift.

Be modest in your efforts and take the whole gift giving idea down to a manageable level. Repeat after me, "We're/I'm not going crazy this year, we/I want to enjoy the holidays. There are so many people who need more than we/I. Maybe we'll/I'll give something to a shelter, in people's names, instead of gifts. They'll probably be glad. In fact, I wish that people would do that for us/me, too." I bet you'll get a smile and a handshake from 90% of the people you say it to. And as for the others, just get them something.

You will have cut out 90% of your shopping, right? Some people don't have other family and just enjoy the shopping. That's okay, too. But we all have a right to a peaceful holiday. We have to start somewhere. (09/26/2008)

By Thrifty Me

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Thank you for your posting. I agree with what you say. It would be wonderful if gifts were given with the giver in mind, but often they are given out of obligation. I'm sorry you have had such negative experiences, but I don't think they are so rare! I agree with the other feedback that we can pass the gift along, to a charity shop. That's what I tend to do, rather than have it collect dust in a drawer. (09/26/2008)

By Jenny

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I love to bake cakes, pies, and fancy cookies. But according to an RN dietitian I can bake all kinds of desserts, but shouldn't eat them myself. I've been battling high cholesterol all of my adult life and I'm trying to get my cholesterol under control without having to take the statin drug that was prescribed. The nurse practitioner told me that the statin drug I was taking was affecting my liver function, then she told me to stop taking the drug.

So if someone baked me a plate of cookies, and couldn't eat them because of my cholesterol problem. I sure wouldn't want to offend that person and hurt their feelings by refusing their gift. My husband would greatly enjoy them because he doesn't have a cholesterol problem. And our son in Iraq would enjoy a shipment of cookies.

Our soldiers always enjoy something from home especially home-made cookies. Senior citizens enjoy home-made desserts because many of them have lost their spouses and their children are all grown and have families of their own. Or even take a huge batch of cookies to a homeless shelter.

(09/27/2008)

By MCW

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Wonderful ideas to keep in mind. Thank you for sharing! (09/27/2008)

By WildIrish

Holiday Gift Etiquette

It's clear this article is the product of long experience and much thought.

It's true that too many people turn gift-giving occasions around and make it all about themselves. What they made, but didn't stop to think if you wanted. What they think you should have because of course they know best. What they want to give because they think it makes them look sophisticated. What they foisted off on you because they felt they needed to be seen giving you a gift but couldn't be bothered to think of something suitable.

The woman with her pumpkin butter is amazing. Maybe she should offer a return deposit on her precious jars!

Maybe next, someone will write from the other viewpoint -- how to gracefully accept a gift that's completely inappropriate.

I think the only thing I would add is this: It's OK not to give a gift. A nice card with a thoughtful note beats an ill-chosen gift every time. The recipient gets your good wishes, and she doesn't have to figure out how to dispose of an item she doesn't want while worrying about hurting your feelings. (09/27/2008)

By chretienne

Holiday Gift Etiquette

dh8, this was a wonderful post. Your points should be considered by all of us who spend precious time, thought and energy with our talents when we gift. i got a lot of useful insight from your words.

chretienne, thank you for responding to the original article. Yours is, in my view, the only reply that actually "gets" the original message.

Now, I need to get back to my Christmas list and revise a few of my original entries after taking the time to reflect on some of my recipients.
(09/27/2008)

By sbaum

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I'm sorry you have had experiences receiving gifts that were not to your taste - haven't we all? The point, however, is not to dwell on these disappointments but rather to cherish the thought behind them (with exception of the pumpkin butter situation). I do agree with other posters that such disappointments can be teaching moments both for your children and for yourself.

We don't always get what we want in this life, and it falls to us to receive things graciously and with a kind heart. Others less fortunate might accept your unwanted things as blessings, and your family could make a holiday tradition of giving such gifts to shelters. (09/27/2008)

By sigma28

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope the entire planet reads this post and can finally cease and desist with all the dubious gifting. A giant step toward de-escalating Christmas. (09/27/2008)

By kimhis

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I too have only one word to say. Amen! (09/27/2008)

By Mary

Holiday Gift Etiquette

When I began reading this post I was getting quite a negative feeling even though several points were very valid ones. I am sure the majority of us have received undesired or unsuitable gifts on several occasions. Many of mine have not been handmade/baked/crafted so they can't be singled out.

I suppose the main point to take from this is to put 'thought' into any gift. The recipients tastes/likes/interests are important to consider even though it may make gifting trickier.

What this leaves me wondering is: If someone repeatedly gives you gifts that you dislike, and you feel quite strongly about it, should you politely let them know for future reference so they're not living under misapprehensions? OR do you continue to accept (yet resent) the gift?
(09/27/2008)

By jojo

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I have received many gifts that maybe were not quite my style or whatever but the love and thought of the person giving me a gift was the gift! (09/27/2008)

By

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I was told growing up, if someone gives you a bucket of junk say thank you. Empty the bucket and use the bucket. (09/28/2008)

By Pam in Jax FL

Holiday Gift Etiquette

While I agree with most all of what the original post said, I would like to add my own pet peeve of people giving over-the-top expensive items or checks, or gift cards. Stores push gift cards because they end up profiting on it when people don't use them, but when close friends basically hand 'money' to each other, it seems tacky to me. Imagine this, someone hands you a gift card to your favorite restaurant and you hand them back a gift card to their favorite restaurant, same restaurant. Oh wow, how personal. You've basically handed me ten dollars and I handed you back ten dollars. Don't we really love each other. I'm just all warm and fuzzy inside. Not.

Also, what if I can only afford to give you $10 and you give me $50, it makes us both uncomfortable. Isn't the point of gift giving to make people know we care about them? I'd much rather have a visit or greeting card with a handwritten note, and would treasure it forever, but also enjoy thoughtful small gifts from friends. I try to give others something thoughtful & useful that they might enjoy, and don't care what they do with it afterward because it's a gift.

I asked a friend last year if we could just go out to lunch together instead of exchanging the usual obligatory gifts and let our time visiting be our 'gift' to each other, and it turned out that she was so relieved. The time 'spent' together was worth a lot more to either of us than something to unwrap. We had a relaxing time together, instead of shopping separately for gifts. People are important, and time together. Things, not so much. (09/28/2008)

By CrafterMary

Holiday Gift Etiquette

You all need to take a chill pill. The holidays are a time of love and happiness and joy. If you receive a gift, feel blessed that someone thought of you. There are many that do not receive any gift at all. If you receive something you cannot use or don't like, then donate it! (09/28/2008)

By Susan

Holiday Gift Etiquette

"The purpose of a gift is to show how much you value the recipient or thank them for something they've done; nothing else. It doesn't have to be expensive; just thoughtful." This means you look at a homemade gift the same as you would a store bought gift. I have gotten many tacky, ill-thought-out gifts over the years, but looking back, none were homemade. I didn't exactly appreciate the crocheted baby blanket my great-aunt (who I barely know) made for my daughter, when I had her at age 17, but of all the shower gifts I received, it's one of the few I still have. Today I treasure it. My grandchild will be hugged in this gift, even if the colors aren't what my daughter's nursery were painted in. I can now value the time and effort put into this gift from someone who probably couldn't have picked me out off the street. (09/28/2008)

By callipepper.

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I love giving gifts so very much. I really don't even care what I get. Seriously! I plan out Christmas very early. I love getting savings and bargains. I also like trying to match a great gift to a great person. I have gotten gifts that are not really me. However, just like other things, if I can not use it someone else can!
http://www.savingspotpourri.blogspot.com/ (09/28/2008)

By Savings Assistant

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I love giving gifts so very much. I really don't even care what I get. Seriously! I plan out Christmas very early. I love getting savings and bargains. I also like trying to match a great gift to a great person. I have gotten gifts that are not really me. However, just like other things, if I can not use it someone else can! (09/28/2008)

By Savings Assistant

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I think a lot of people need to learn the meaning of gratitude. When I was growing up not having gratitude was considered the worst thing that you could do.
My mother-in-law gave me her most prized possession: a hideous tureen that I'll treasure until I die. She had 3 daughters-in-law but she choose me. And I was grateful.

My husband gave me a purple sweater for Christmas and with my coloring I looked like an over ripe plum and I smiled when I wore it cause he got so much pleasure for seeing me in it. And I was grateful.
My grandmother made me numerous dresses and blouses and skirts and I didn't like all of them, but I wore them to her house. Because I was grateful.

My son gave me a colored macaroni necklace that I wore to college and to all my special events. I got it because I was "the most special mother in the world." And I was grateful.
I don't know about all of you but I don't have too many people who love me, but for the ones who are there and do I am grateful. (09/29/2008)

By Glenn'sMom

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Well, one thing you have to remember. If someone takes the time to make something for you. They are giving you a piece of themselves. Because of finances, I have to make most of our gifts. I try to think of something they will really like. And I can tell you this too, I treasure anything made and given to me. They took time out of their day and they thought of me. What more could you ask?

I have a family member that thinks homemade gifts are "cheap". But then, she's a very material person. We were accused of being "cheap" by several family members and it hurt deeply. I was injured in an accident last ear and can't work. God gave me the gift of being able to draw. I gave them all beautiful pics I worked on for days and even framed and matted them. They were really nice. All I got was an "Oh" as it was set down and they went to open the next gift.

Oh, and I bought back my pic she sold at a garage sale for 3$. She didn't even acknowledge it, just took my 3$. I can tell you it was worth much more then that. I sell pics like that for $50-$100.

My SIL's gift to me? Diamond tipped toothpicks. Like I need something like that. But then, expensive gifts are all she acknowledges. If someone gives you something you can tell they spent time on, don't make them feel bad. I know how it feels. (09/30/2008)

By Janiee123

Holiday Gift Etiquette

My boyfriend can't even be bothered to buy me a card for my birthday, let alone a gift. I would give anything if he would give me a cheap gift from the dollar store as long as he made the effort.

(10/01/2008)

By CW

Holiday Gift Etiquette

I would say Bah Humbug! Smile and be grateful that people like you enough to spend time and/or money on you. And Have a Merry Christmas or other holiday. (10/03/2008)

By CP

Holiday Gift Etiquette

To DH8, I think you're being a little harsh. To give a lifetime of perfect gifts is impossible.
(10/07/2008)

By DH6

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Bravo! You've touched on one of biggest private admonitions: just because I enjoyed making it, doesn't mean someone else wants it or will enjoy receiving it as much as I enjoyed making it. What's the point of giving a gift if you don't take time to consider what that person would enjoy? Crafting is a personal pleasure so just do/produce things that you personally enjoy or want to sell. Be careful about giving it away because unless a person requests your product, they probably don't want it. (10/08/2008)

By akosei

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Wow! If somebody gave me a handmade anything (no matter how silly), like I make and give (no holiday needed), I would treasure that gift. (10/18/2008)

By clock714

Holiday Gift Etiquette

You have obviously been given many wonderful people in your life that just want to bless you with things you put no value upon. Perhaps this year you should consider giving your 'loved' ones a gift. Their precious time and energy back so they are not wasting it on you. Just go to the department store and go hog wild on yourself since you can't see past material items, and a very Bah Humbug to you! (11/04/2008)

By Melissa B.

Holiday Gift Etiquette

You shouldn't give a gift with the expectation of anything more than a polite thank you. Giving a gift to someone doesn't obligate the recipient to wear whatever you made them or eat whatever you enjoy cooking or use their home as a display of your gifts. Gifts shouldn't be used to lay guilt trips on anyone.

I can relate to the above. I do not understand why some people almost demand that their gift be worn or displayed at all times. I believe when you give a gift it becomes their gift to do with as they please. I consider it rude and selfish of people that will walk into your house a year later and ask where their gift is. This person obviously has their own issues when they use a gift to enslave the recipient. It's all about them, not the gift nor the recipient!

Thank you for some good reminders and thoughts on gift giving! (11/13/2008)

By RobertaH

Holiday Gift Etiquette

All I have to say is, "Bah, Humbug!"
Personally, I love any gift that I receive because the person giving it to me took the time either to make it (even if it's not my taste - they were thinking of me the entire time that they were making it) or spent their time picking it out for me at the store. (11/18/2008)

By craftd1

Holiday Gift Etiquette

Let's cut some slack for DH8. This isn't about not getting what you want or not accepting gifts graciously. It's about thoughtless giving, and giving for the wrong reasons. It's about people who clean out their closet, attach strings, stroke their own egos, impose their will and tastes on others and then call it a gift.

Here is what the purpose of a gift is: it's supposed to demonstrate that you care enough about the recipient that you think about him/her/them when he/she/they are not there. Price is irrelevant.
With me so far? Good.

Simply exchanging goods from one set of hands to another does not turn those goods into a gift. It's the thought that turns it into a gift. If Jerry the mouse gives Tom the cat a lit stick of dynamite, that's hardly considered a gift. Still pretty simple, isn't it?

Now the fact that a gift came from someone's oven, sewing basket, or workbench doesn't automatically bestow thoughtfulness to it. Similarly, a store receipt doesn't automatically make a gift thoughtless, regardless how big (or small) the number is on said receipt. Still with me? Good.

For example, let's say I give my friend some fudge for Christmas (store-bought or homemade, it doesn't matter). He lives in a small place, so he doesn't have room to store lots of stuff. Edibles don't hang around long. I've seen him eat other sweets, so he's not diabetic. And lots of people in my circle of friends enjoy fudge. I consider this to be a reasonable thing to give him.

Little do I know that he has a lethal allergy to chocolate - if he eats it, he can die. My offering is certainly not a good choice, but I was still thinking about what he might enjoy and fit his lifestyle. It is still a gift, albeit a poor choice. And gentleman that he is, he thanks me, informs me of his inability to enjoy my gift and asks permission to pass it along to someone who can. If I am a decent person, I apologize for the mix up and give him my blessing to re-gift.

Now that I know of his allergy, if I subsequently give him something chocolate-based, I am showing a distinct lack of thought. I might as well give poor Tom the cat that lit stick of dynamite. Hence this lack of thought keeps my offering from being a gift. What it is, I don't exactly know, but the terms "slap in the face," "cruel joke," and "insult" come to mind.

Heck, the Cosby show had an episode about this some years ago. Cliff Huxtable complained that his kids got him some pretty strange and useless birthday gifts that showed no thought whatsoever. He had said that the items could have been given to *anyone*. He told them to try again, this time showing that they thought about him. What he ended up with on this second go-round was no less strange, but each kid described how each gift addressed a need or desire he had previously expressed. And Cliff was happy, because his kids demonstrated that they were thinking about him.

Moral of the story: It's as important to give graciously as it is to receive graciously. (11/30/2008)

By Clueless

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