Gift-Giving Etiquette: Helpful Guidelines For The Holiday Season

Tomorrow morning, my daughter’s bookbag will be a little full. After much debate and consideration, I’m going to agree with almost 70% of Mommyish readers and send gifts to my little girl’s teacher, classroom assistant and principal. As for the bus-driver dilemma, I’m going to get her some Starbucks. (I take my daughter to and from pre-school myself.) I’m not just getting gifts because you’ve all told me that I should, I appreciate the people who work with my daughter everyday and I know that it’s important to show that gratitude with a small gift during the holidays.

That’s really what gift-giving in the holidays should be about, buying presents for those we care about and appreciate. Unfortunately, there are also some etiquette guidelines to consider. One of our commenters said, “Not to bring anything, is rude and inconsiderate,” during our conversation about teacher gifts. Obviously, there are some serious emotions behind those boxes of chocolate and Barnes & Noble gift cards. If you want to get through the holidays without stepping on any toes or offending anyone’s sensibilities, here are a few hints on navigating the present protocol.

  • Cards for everyone. It may some like a quaint tradition, but a hand-written card with a personal message is still an effective way to reach out to everyone without spending a lot of money. Most people really believe, “It’s the thought that counts,” so simply hearing from you can mean a lot. And after hearing from lots of teachers, a simple card is just as special as any expensive gift basket you could come up with.
  • Reciprocation. What to do when someone surprises you with a gift and you’ve bought nothing for them… it’s a horrible situation to be in. You feel uncomfortable and a little guilty. Well, the best thing to do is to show your thanks and then put together a small present to deliver to them. It may be tempting to move on after your embarrassment and call it a day, but if someone went to the trouble to get you a gift, you really need to do something, even just a card, to show that you appreciate it.
  • Bigger isn’t always better. Extravagant gifts aren’t always the best way to go. You need to take your giftee into consideration. A thoughtful gift will win out over a huge one anytime.
  • Don’t make a display. If you’re buying gifts for co-workers or other members of a group, give your presents in private. You don’t need to show the world how pretty your wrapping techniques are. Especially if you didn’t get something for everyone, all exchanges need to be between just the two of you.
  • Have fun. Gifts don’t have to be a series of “should haves” and guidelines. It’s supposed to be fun. So don’t get overwhelmed by the etiquette and lose focus of the joy of the season. After all, you’re buying gifts because you like these people. It should feel nice to do. If you’re feeling resentful of the gifts you’re buying, you need to re-evaluate your list.

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