Something as simple as giving or receiving a gift shouldn’t create a complex scenario but, at this time of year, the issues surrounding Christmas gift etiquette can make things a little tricky.
Most of us would rather not spend our hard-earned money on presents which go unused or end up on the shelf of the nearest charity shop. At the same time we do not want to come across as thoughtless, or even offensive, by leaving people off our seasonal gift list.
If handled with tact and courtesy, the act of giving and receiving Christmas gifts need not be awkward and can instead be a joyous experience for all. Here are a few Christmas gift etiquette tips that will go a long way to ensure that you don’t step on anyone’s toes this festive season.
1. Which family members should you buy presents for?
As a general rule of thumb, you should first and foremost buy gifts for the family members and friends who you will be spending Christmas Day with. If you have a large family and will be splitting the celebrations across several days, it is a good idea to buy small gifts for people at those gatherings as well.
With family members who live further away, you may want to come to a joint decision about whether or not you should exchange gifts. Some families limit gift giving to just the children, especially if they are not going to be seeing each other over the festive season
2. do I need to buy a present for every event i attend?
If you are only dropping in to a drinks party on your way somewhere else, it is not necessary to bring a gift although to do so is always a nice gesture. However, if someone cooks you a meal, then a gift for the host and hostess would be appropriate. There is no need to go overboard; a good bottle of wine, a beautiful amaryllis or a boxed scented candle all make beautiful gifts.
You may find that having a selection of small gifts at home, such as candles, books or chocolates, comes in handy for last minute party invitations or unexpected guests.
3. When should I include a gift receipt with my gift?
You should always include the receipt, regardless of whom the gift is for, in case they need a different size or already have a similar item. If they feel awkward about having to ask for the receipt, the gift may be left unused in a drawer or at the back of a wardrobe. These days most shops will provide a gift receipt, which does not include the price, to be placed in the gift box before you wrap it.
4. What about my colleagues?
While it is not necessary to buy gifts for everyone in the office you may want to show your appreciation to your closest co-workers or those who help your day run more smoothly. Food-related treats are usually a hit and if you have a team of assistants or receptionists you can present them with a big box of Christmas biscuits or chocolates to share.
Similarly, those of you with school-aged children will probably want to mark the season with a gift to your child’s teacher. It can be a good idea to join forces with other parents and buy a bigger gift from the whole class rather than lots of individual smaller presents.
5. I have a friend who is always buying me expensive gifts for Christmas. Am I obliged to reciprocate?
To be quite frank, you are not. Christmas gift etiquette is not supposed to be a competition. The true spirit of giving lies in the thought behind the gift and in your appreciation of it. Reciprocate in spirit as best you can but resist the urge to break your budget out of pride.
Remember that giving is not just restricted to physical objects. Your time and attention are just as valuable, if not even more so. Why not treat your friend to a day out at a stunning outdoor spot, bring a picnic and a big flask of coffee, and share some quality time together?