The Not-So-Fine Art of Holiday Gift Giving
The annual challenge of finding just the right items for everyone on your list
I did not realize I was in a gifting rut until my friend Linda remarked that she truly appreciated the latest gift of a scarf from me, as she will add it to her deep collection of many, many scarves that I have given her every year. Every. Year.
Not the same scarf, mind you, but similar. Somewhere in my brain was an indelible message that Linda loves scarves, so why not keep repeating the category as it is such a hit? Well, it was a hit maybe the first five or so occasions, but then I was gently reminded I have repeated this category at least 20 times. No one needs 20 scarves from the same friend.
This year I bought Linda a soft, sumptuous sweater.
At holiday season, we are likely each entrusted with a list of friends, family, work colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, bosses, clients and others to whom we are to give a gift. Add to that list hosts of the many events, parties, drop-ins and get-togethers where a gift is a polite appreciation for being included.
While it is easy to order gifts in bulk or do the predictable gift that has come to be expected of you, it is not necessarily the best route. I learned this lesson.
One size does not fit all in the gift category — OK , chocolate always works — and the same gift over and over and over is not the best reflection of your thoughtfulness. People change, their tastes shift and the assumption that the same person always wants you to give him or her the exact same token of gratitude is just not true. At least it isn’t for me.
I’ve had my own years of Rosé Silence. Somewhere along the line, a good friend became irrevocably convinced that I love rosé wine. Party after party, birthday after birthday, holiday after holiday, she brought me a bottle of rosé with a broad smile. I smiled back with feigned gratitude. Hers was a kind gesture. She was so pleased with herself. I always gave the bottle to someone else at another time, as I do not like rosé wine. At all.
At one rosé exchange, I thanked my friend deeply and said that I was now learning to also appreciate pinot grigio. While truthfully I could give a master class on how much I appreciate pinot grigio, she has since switched to gifting me my absolute favorite wine. Amen.
Of course, is it possible that people rely on you to bring the same gift each year and welcome it? Yes.I have friends who deliver fudge to my door during the holidays and I make a mental note of when I can expect it and how many extra steps I must add to my daily routine to accommodate the delicious batch. I also know I am expected to bring certain food offerings — I have been the designated bruschetta person for decades now. And if I deviate, no matter what I deliver, it does not go well. People miss the bruschetta.
My humble suggestion is to take a giving inventory to see if the gift you always bring is a perennial favorite for the recipient, or just the same old thing every year. You could ask. Or you could get creative. And by that I don’t mean switching to gift cards.
If I look at my own gift-giving rut, it is rooted in my own tastes and preferences. I love scarves and relish the gift of another. I assumed Linda loved them as much as I did because she was always polite about receiving one, and another and another. If I had put more time into thinking of her — instead of projecting what I would like — I would have come up with an idea based on herhabits and likes from what I saw and heard about her doing and wearing, eating, drinking and appreciating. It’s a much bigger list.
I’m not saying I am creating a Google doc for every person I am to give a gift to this year, but I am assuming nothing about what I have given in the past and how well it may be received — past, present or future. The person smiling as I hand him another tie is not necessarily smiling on the inside. For that, I include a gift receipt.
This season and going forward, my presents will not be an automatic replication of an earlier gift. This way, perhaps, what I offer from the heart will not be met with eye-rolling or dread, but may come as a surprise.
I promise to be more present with my presents.After all, it is better to give a gift someone may cherish, rather than the same old, same old you learn to regret.Edit Module