Holiday gift exchange etiquette

T■ By Kathy McNeeley / Contributed
he holiday gift giving season is upon us again and as with any gift-giving occasion, there are certain guidelines that apply. Etiquette, in any situation, is based on treating others with honesty, respect and consideration. In other words, etiquette is thinking about others and your courteous interactions with them. This goes far beyond a perfunctory “please” and “thank you.” It requires one’s conscious effort to think about others in a meaningful way.

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The Holiday Gift giving season is upon us again.

What situation could be more appropriate for this consideration than the act of giving and receiving gifts? The thoughtfulness of the gift giver and the graciousness of the gift receiver are perfect examples of proper etiquette wherein everyone has a role to play and the rules are generally clear: the adage “It’s the thought that counts” could never have a greater ring of truth to it. It’s the thought involved in the exchange, that counts.

It’s important to not allow such stressors as family dynamics, one-upmanship, covetousness or over-spender’s guilt threaten to strangle the holiday cheer when we strive to Keep the Christmas Spirit.” – Kathy McNeeley, The Valley Chronicle

Simple rules help eliminate the conditions in which these factors may come about. The key to having good manners or following the rules of etiquette is to never make another feel uncomfortable in any situation.

Be honest: Be upfront with others about your traditions, ideas on gift exchanges and reciprocation. Just because someone has given a gift to you does not mean you should feel obligated to return the gesture. Their feelings about gift giving may be different than yours. To be respectful to them, be gracious and thank them for their thoughtfulness. There is no need to respond with “but, I didn’t get you anything.” That just introduces an element of awkwardness. And, on that same note, if your circumstances prevent you from taking part in a gift exchange, be honest with those you trust will understand. This is a kindness to them. You have taken them into your confidence and this is a gift in and of itself.

Be thoughtful: Give from the heart and put thought behind the gift. It doesn’t matter if you do not know the person very well. There are always simple gift ideas that are well received – Car wash tickets, reusable grocery totes (sans store logo), scented candles, a box of stationery (include postage, please), a special holiday ornament, a subscription to the local newspaper – big smile! With those you know a little better, take the time to listen to them about their hobbies, leisure activities and the charitable causes they support.
There are always gifts that people would never purchase for themselves, but in their heart of hearts, would love to receive. The gift then becomes more than just another present under the tree. It has the added thoughtfulness of the person who has given the gift. The recipient is given the gift of significance. Google is your best friend with regards to gift ideas. Google “gifts for golfers” and you will be amazed at the serious, silly and downright stupid gifts available online. Again, really think about purchasing that Bathroom Golf Game. Gag gifts almost always send the wrong message.

Be respectful: Do not give showy or extravagant gifts to impress others. If you truly want to give such a gift to someone, do it privately. Think of how others may feel either receiving such a gift or how others may feel about witnessing the exchange. And if there is a price limit in a gift exchange, respect it. Again, the rule is to not make someone else uncomfortable in the giving or receiving of a gift.
If gifts are exchanged in a social situation, everyone should be included. Imagine how someone might feel if everyone is opening a gift and there isn’t one for them? How would you feel?

Be considerate: Again this comes down to having thoughtfulness for others over time. The giving of oneself is the greatest gift of all. It means putting your best self forward and offering others the best of yourself.
What could be a more honest, respectful and considerate gift?

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