Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Lost Art of Gift Giving

With Christmas only 9 days away, I thought I’d write about the art of gift giving, and the Secret Santa gifts no one really wants. If you’ve ever received a hideous gift, the kind you look at and wonder what the heck was the person thinking, then you know what I’m talking about.

This year my neighbor participated in a Secret Santa exchange at work. The idea was to spend $10 on the gift, but not everyone follows through on that commitment. Whether it has to do with lack of time, or just laziness, I don’t know, but her gift this year was a used curling iron with gunk all over the wand. She never did find out who pulled the female name, but she was sure upset when she followed the rules and bought something nice for a male. I suppose whoever gave the gift thought they were being funny, but she found little humor in it.

And what about the person who has a reputation for giving weird gifts? I think the worst part of receiving gifts is opening them in front of the giver. What do you do when it’s a dreadful gift? Unless you’re taking acting lessons, this can be pretty tricky. I’m one of those people whose face shows every emotion I’m feeling. I’ve never been very good about hiding my feelings, try as I might—but I’m learning.

So what do you buy? In my husband’s family, everyone makes up a list of what they want for Christmas. Truth be told, I don’t like this idea at all. Where’s the surprise in that? Sure, we did that as kids, but the list was a foot long, not one item on the list.

Another thing that irritates me is the exchanging of gift cards in the same dollar amount. That’s like giving back the money we each spent. So why do I need a gift card in the same dollar amount you gave me?

My personal preference for buying a gift is to give the person something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. And if your buying for kids for example, please don’t ask their parents because chances are it’s going to be something educational. Sure, that’s a noble objective, but kids don’t want something educational—they’re in school all week. They want a Harry Potter DS DVD or something fun.

I can remember when our grandson was 5 years old. We bought him what his father said he should have. When Peter opened the gift, he made a face and handed it back to us saying, “I don’t want this.” True, it was rude, and he got a good tongue lashing for it, but be the aunt or grandparent whose gifts are looked forward to.

Let’s face it. It takes time and thought to give the perfect gift. Unfortunately, in today’s hustle bustle world, no one takes the time anymore. Try listening when people talk and make mental notes about the things they’ve mentioned they want. Chances are it’ll be a big hit and they probably won’t even remember having mentioned it, but so glad they did.

So what do you do with gifts you don’t want or like? Do you recycle, sell it at a garage sale, exchange it, tuck it away in a drawer somewhere, or give it to Goodwill?


J L said...

Our family draws names at Christmas and the rule is "you either make a list or you take what you get." I love reading gift lists and seeing what someone thinks is cool this year. Since my family is very far-flung, I don't keep as current with their wants/hobbies as I'd like. A list tells me what they're interested in this year. I don't always buy from the list, but it provides a nice starting point.

As to unwanted gifts: it depends. If someone will come to my house and see I'm not using the gift, I'll try to figure a way to use it. Or if I can, I say, "Oh, I took that to the office, it was such a pretty " then I usually give it to GoodWill. Maybe *somebody* will want it!

J L said...

Ha! I forgot and got edited. I meant to say " was such a pretty knick knack}{bowl}{whatever}" (I used angle brackets the first time and WHOOPS! that's HTML!)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I know I am the worst when it comes to buying gifts. I get so worried about getting just the right one that I make myself sick. Then after I buy it, I don't think it is good enough or that 'they' will like it. I have friends who always find something perfect and they amaze me. Part of my problem is, I am not a shopper. The thought of going into a mall frazzles me and I think maybe a root canal would be easier to live through. I know, that is not the way a woman is supposed to be. I have friends who thinking going shopping three or four days a week is a way of life... URGH! I don't know how they do it.

We are at the age when we don't need anything and the kids don't want us buying them anything because they can't afford to buy gifts. We've changed the spirit of Christmas around here to giving in other ways. I am thinking the best gift for me is a hug and a smile... There are smiles I miss and would do anything to have one again.

Jill James said...

I have a cousin who gives me a cookie jar every Christmas, so we swap them out and one goes to the Goodwill. Can't people remember what they gave you from year to year?

L.A. Lopez said...

I try to avoid parties and what have you that requires gift exchange. I really don't like to do it. It's not that I mind the shopping, I just hate the end results that can be as expressed in your blog.
I don't believe it's necessary. I think a ornament exchange is fun. I do that with a group of girls I use to work with every year. I have some funny, beautiful and personal ornaments.
My family doesn't exchange gifts, we're to large. So we just send recipes and cards. Only the grandkids get gifts..That is fun. And ya know we enjoy the holidays a lot more because it brought our stress down a few notches.

Mona Risk said...

When I was growing up I received very few Christmas gifts: a book from my parents. The only toys i had were a ball and a jumping rope. And that was it. But when my kids were growing up we compensated by lavishing them with toys, books, clothes. And we gave gifts to every sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt, etc..
I insisted a few years ago that only small kids under 18 should receive gifts. It's much easier, less expensive and more fun. Kids like all the presents they receive.