One of my favorite things about Christmas is the look on the kids’ faces on Christmas morning when they come downstairs. Achieving this look depends, I admit it, on a large number of presents under the tree. The gluttony aspect is not pleasing to my Scottish soul, but the wonder on their faces is, literally, priceless.
But, as we all know, the custom of giving and receiving presents is fraught with many pleasures, and not a few pitfalls.
Who has not had the child who opened the Wii game before he opened the Wii console? Who has not found the mystery present, absent its tag, sitting forlornly under the tree? Who has not had the mislabeled gift, the duplicate gift, etc.
Forthwith, in no particular order, some gifting conundrums with possible alternatives.
Offer an afternoon of sledding for your nieces and nephews, followed by hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. A picnic in the park if you're in a warm weather clime. You think they won’t remember these outings? Babysitting services are always in demand, if you have more time than money. I have seen friends pick up used furniture at the dump (we have an excellent take it or leave it), refinish it, and voila, they have a unique gift. Do you have a skill or hobby you can share? Tennis lessons, sewing lessons, cooking lessons, home repair - the list is endless. The gift-from-the-heart that you can offer will depend on your talents. But everyone has something they can offer.
Re-gifting. In general, don’t do it. I would never give something I don’t like to another person. Here’s a better idea. Throw a Trash and Treasure Party later in the year. Tell all your guests to bring one item they’ve received and don’t want. That’s the Trash. They should also bring a Treasure. Establish a price limit, say $25. At the party, have a swap. Choose numbers out of a hat. In turn, each guest chooses a Trash gift and a Treasure gift. Then you allow swaps. (Set up your rules in advance!) There will be a few items that several people want. I have seen ladies almost draw blood in a fight over rhinestone studded platform heels that someone got from the clearance rack of a clearance store. Someone will like what you don’t. But the beauty of it is, you’ll get rid of your unwanted gift in a fun way. Even if no one wants to take home that anatomically correct Adam and Eve salt and pepper set (though I’m betting someone will), you’ll have so many laughs, you’ll end up thinking the gift was well worth the price.
Hostess gifts: Must I follow Miss Manners? Etiquette says you cannot request anything because your guests are not obligated to bring a gift. This makes sense to me. But. I throw a big Christmas party. Some people bring small hostess gifts, which I appreciate. Others don’t, which is perfectly fine. The problem is that I really don’t need another Christmas picture frame, another cute ornament, etc. I do have a charity I’m passionate about, and a $5 or $10 item would go a long way in helping the charity. As would any contribution for the local Food Pantry. But I can’t bring myself to add a small note to the invitation that says, if you’d like, please bring something appropriate for Blank. So, instead of helping folks that need and deserve our help, I get another bag of chocolate-coated pretzels. You see the problem? Okay, what is the solution?
Also, when responding, people often ask what they can bring. This is a thoughtful gesture, but the party is not a potluck. I respond with some version of, “Bring yourself and your party spirit.” Here’s an opening to mention the charity. But so far, I haven’t been able to do it. Any suggestions?
(BTW, it is not a solution to say, your ticket to admittance to the party is a contribution for the Food Pantry. This has happened to me. As worthy as the cause is, giving a party is not an excuse to browbeat your friends.)
One final note: Christmas is a great time to introduce your children to the pleasures of giving to others who may be having tough times. Our local newspaper does a Santa Drive where you send in money, which they dispense to families in need. The paper writes up some of the stories in the paper. Needless to say, the stories are quite moving. So ever since they were little, I’ve asked my kids if they want to make a contribution. I let them decide the amount and I don’t pressure them. (I think giving should come from the heart. See above.) They have always donated generously. I send in the check. Supposedly, the paper prints every donor’s name. I’ve never seen ours, but I don’t look too hard. On the one hand, the kids would have been thrilled. On the other, I don’t want them thinking a gift is given in order to get their names in the paper.
Do you have any gifting suggestions to help us all out?