I love Christmas. The tacky Hallmark movies starring low-grade actors you thought you’d forgotten, making seasonal treats, and attending Carols by Candlelight concerts in as many suburbs as possible – it’s a wonderful time of year.
But whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Festivus, the busy nature and obligation of the holiday season can make it an anxiety-ridden time. Add gift giving to the equation and stress levels can tip into overdrive.
Who do you buy gifts for? How much should you spend? And is it cool to re-gift if you don’t like something? If all you want for the Christmas is pleasant social interactions that aren’t fraught by present faux pas, read on for our experts’ guide to the giving and receiving of gifts.
Is it OK to re-gift?
“Yes, it is OK to re-gift something, and studies have shown that about half of us are comfortable to re-gift,” says Anna Musson, etiquette expert at The Good Manners Company. But there are provisos.
“Number one, it needs to be a generic gift that you know the person would love,” Musson says, “and give outside of the circle who gave it to you.”
Zarife Hardy, director of the Australian School of Etiquette, agrees.
“What else happens to it then? It just sits in a cupboard and you never, ever use it. So I always think as long as it’s not damaged or you’ve used it, then it’s fine,” she says. Related: Is the traditional Christmas tree boring?Related: How to save hundreds on gifts this ChristmasRelated: What interior stylists want for Christmas
“The bottom line is no one buys you a gift hoping that you won’t like it. We all genuinely spend time thinking about what we’re going to buy someone ??? That’s why if you’re going to re-gift it, that person has to be far removed.”
To open or not to open
When you’re no longer a kid waking to a stocking full of presents on Christmas morning, it may be tempting to store up the few gifts you do receive to open on the big day. But is it bad manners to wait?
“The rule of thumb is, when someone at work or a friend gives you a Christmas present, you should open it in front of them,” Hardy says. “People buy you a gift because they’re excited that you’re going to really like it. They want to see that excitement.”
The exception, as with so many things, is family. If you’d prefer to hold on to something given to you by a relative, give them a heads up that you’re saving it for Christmas.
Show me the receipts
As a general rule, requesting a receipt for something you’ve been given is a no-no, but there’s some leeway depending on your relationship with the giver. If it’s someone you’re close to, and they won’t mind if you want to exchange something, then proceed, but cautiously, Musson says.
“And if you think that they would be horribly offended, then just say nothing and you can re-gift it later on.”
On the other hand if you’re giving an especially expensive gift, including a receipt is fine – as long as you’re comfortable with doing so.
Who to buy for
“This is really, really tricky when it comes to workmates and friends,” says Hardy. She recommends writing a list of people you’re closest to, and figuring out a budget of what you’re happy to spend on each person.
Be discretionary if handing out gifts in the workplace, and make sure your gift is appropriate – “keep it very, very general” is Hardy’s advice.
There’s no obligation for an employee to reciprocate a boss’ gift. For those on a budget, investing in some quality Christmas cards and putting effort into writing them can be a lovely gesture.
Buying for hosts
When attending holiday parties, “you should never arrive empty handed,” says Musson. “The gift varies for the occasion, what they would like and what impression you would like to create.”
Going to a barbecue? Cadbury Favourites are fine. Fancy dinner? A bottle of wine, handmade chocolates or biscuits work perfectly, but don’t get miffed if your host saves them for another occasion – these are gifts, and that’s their prerogative.
Ah, vouchers. They’re great when you’re not sure what to get someone (does your niece still like German industrial music, or was that just a phase?) but you run the risk of it feeling impersonal.
Hardy suggests buying one from a particular store loved by the recipient, or something that relates to one of their hobbies, rather than a generic department store gift card.
“Just take it that one step further by personalising it.”
Note: these should always be real gifts. Don’t go handing out cards to people claiming a donation has been made in their name to The Human Fund.
Always show gratitude
Don’t like what someone got you?
“There’s only one response, and this is it: ‘it’s lovely, thank you very much, so thoughtful’,” says Musson. “You don’t have to lie and say ‘oh my gosh, I love it’, but you do have to assume that they spent a lot of time and effort and money choosing your gift.”
And this, my friends, is the golden rule when it comes to presents.
“The number one thing is just showing absolute gratefulness when somebody gives you a gift,” says Hardy. “There’s nothing mandatory in gift giving, it really is a thoughtful gesture.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.