Everyday Ethics

Time for the holiday shopping frenzy! Unless, of course, you’re one of the crazy folk who checked shopping off their holiday to-do list back in August. (You know who you are, and I just don’t like you sometimes.)
I’ve culled my gift list considerably over the last five years or so, but I still suffer the torments of finding just the right gift for the right person. I also suffer the pangs of uncertainty that come from trying to navigate gift-giving (and accepting) etiquette.
I don’t think I’m suffering alone–we seem to drive ourselves to the edge meeting the seemingly petty requirements of a gift exchange.

I remember one such episode with painful clarity. After racking my brains to come up with the perfect gift for a good friend, I decided at the last minute to buy her a new bestseller she’d expressed significant interest in, as well as several smaller items like gloves to combine into a little package rather than one big gift. Right before our gift exchange took place, my friend mentioned her Number 1 holiday gift pet peeve: Receiving a book as a gift. Oops.

Apparently she felt that giving a book for Christmas was the height of thoughtless gift-giving. Now, I love receiving books for Christmas — then again, I also dream of putting together an old-fashioned home library someday. So I wasn’t prepared for such strong disapproval, and it was most definitely too late to come up with a new gift. Needless to say, an awkward silence filled the room only a few moments later, when she opened up my present.
Or…what if your kid takes one look at Grandma’s yearly gift of socks, jumps up, and stuffs said socks into the garbage can with a big, in-your-face flourish? This happened to a friend of mine, and from all accounts, it was definitely a family gathering to remember.
Unfortunately, I have no real holiday etiquette wisdom to pass on here, unless it’s to put forth a bit of effort into a simple mix of diplomacy, tact and kindness. My own technique is to treat every gift with sincere appreciation. I know, I sound like the worst kind of goody two-shoes, but it’s true. I love when someone thinks of me during the holidays, so it really doesn’t matter if the gift happens to be a tube of hair cream (a real gift I happily accepted one year).
What about re-gifting, you say? And, sincere appreciation is all well and good, but what if you were bald and received the aforementioned hair cream? Well, I stand by my pitch for all gratitude, all the time. Even if a gift is given with ill-intentions or a lack of thought, where is the point in attempting to ascertain the other person’s motives? You’ll only make yourself miserable.
Still not convinced by my laissez-faire gift-giving attitude? Here are some more practical holiday etiquette tips that may make your life a little easier.
What’s your strategy for navigating the holi-daze? Do you believe in the value of a gift done right? Or do you ooh and ahhh over thermal underwear with the same enthusiasm as an ipod?
And, have any gory stories from holiday gatherings gone wrong? Share them below!

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