Seasons Greetings

We can all muster up anxiety prone, nightmarish visions of overcrowded and chaotic parking lots, where one fears for one’s life while dodging speeding cars, avoiding slippery black spots, and holiday thieves who don’t believe in giving, only taking your wallet, purse, and newly purchased gifts. Mobs of frenzied, sleep deprived shoppers coil around major technology stores demonstrating zero mercy, overcome with mob mentality, and crazily trampling friends, neighbors, lap dogs, and small children. And of course we must not forget everyone’s beloved creepy, bad breathed, alcoholic, chain smoking mall Santa Clause along with the ridiculously cheesy North Pole rendition. Chronically late holiday shopping, less than thoughtful gift planning, and resorting to giving “Ol’ Standby” presents has sadly become as much of the seasonal tradition as gift giving itself – But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Old Standys

Below are a list of gifts that are NOT appreciated, wanted, or needed – Please take a moment to read over the list below because you don’t want to be “That Guy” or Girl that gives thoughtless, generic, or pathetically awful gifts this holiday season. We’ve all received, given, or re-gifted at least one of the following “old standby" gifts, including:

• Generic hat, scarf, mitten sets purchased directly after last year’s retail holiday season on huge 75%-80% markdown sales (Unpopular cartoon prints or colors such as chartreuse that rarely look good on anyone).

• Candles with obnoxious holiday scents (overtly cinnamon, spruce sickness, pumpkin-pie-I-think, vanilla nausea, and hazelnut headache, just to mention a few)…

•Cheap, non-terrycloth robes and slippers that get shoved to the back of the closet or catch an anonymous ride on the next Goodwill donation trip… Baskets of overpriced and over processed food substances (blocks of “cheese” and cured meats – anything supposedly edible that can and will maintain its form and consistency prior to, during, and after my leaving this life scares me).

•Flannel pajamas that are generally too warm (in a large part of the civilized world) to actually sleep in - but we don’t get rid of them due to the fear of being asked by Great Aunt Marla if we love and wear the suffocating set regularly.

•A rectangular block of fruitcake which could easily be days, years, or possibly decades old (who can honestly tell). •And the quintessential, tacky holiday sweater, that you feel obligated to take out of the box and sport in front of relatives who you don’t like or who you never see regularly for good reason (The awkward bells sewn on to create a bit of 3D interest on Rudolf’s nose, mixed media collage sweaters that proclaim that the nearest arts & craft store recently blew up and you just happened to be in close proximity… Overuse of large buttons, festive ribbons, anthropomorphic holiday beads, zippers which go nowhere, and misplaced rhinestones are never cute, clever, or festive – Just wrong!)

Avoiding the above gift pitfall, by giving “old standbys” and by thinking a little outside the box, can help you sidestep disaster, potential group embarrassment, and individual reticule.

Sincerity Facade

Since we have all given, received, or re-gifted an item over the Holiday season then we are all aware of how the gift giving process is concluded – With an insincere appreciative word or phrase. We all hate faking sincere obligatory responses such as “Awe, thanks, just what I wanted” or “Wow – I can sure use one of those” … “Thanks so much, you must have read my mind… I was just telling Edna recently we need one of these.” Fill in the blank with your own personal example of a thoughtless, generic, or less than perfect gift. Avoiding the inevitably frustrating cycle of holiday gift giving, receiving, and re-gifting by taking a stand and refusing to perpetuate this madness is truly a step in the right direction.

Deconstructing Complexity

Gift giving can be as complicated as the number of people on planet earth who either give or receive presents as well as gift options equally being diverse. Many things can be taken into consideration prior to either dropping a load of cash or hunkering down for hours on end, to come up with the “perfect – hand-made – gift.” A limited amount of planning and brainstorming can help minimize the level or stress and anxiety associated with the giving process.

Basic demographic data such as religious and/or cultural affiliation, age, and gender can also help with deciding whether something is or is not appropriate. Gaging the level of intimacy or non-intimacy with the individual, who will be receiving the gift can also help with the process of elimination or with deciding between several potential gift choices. Taking note of the receiver’s abilities and or tolerance for mental or physical experimentation can shed light on whether a “gift” is going to be a hit or a miss. Taking a moment to reflect on the reason for your gift giving and on what you may be trying to convey with this act of kindness is productive.

Example: Dating Gift Giving Senario

As a practical, real life example, we will take the following boyfriend/girlfriend scenario into consideration. Carol and Jacob recently met through mutual college friends and have been casually dating for 5 months and Jacob is attempting to find the perfect gift for her but the holidays are looming ahead and he is quickly both losing steam and hope.

Dating Senario & Compiling Data

Compiling data, may sound rigorous and unnatural but it can help initiate a series of leads, which can assist in ruling out gift options and thus creating a list of potential contenders. Questions such as…

•How long has the relationship been in existence and has it been consistent - Have you been seeing each other steadily or have you been seeing others in addition to them?

•How intimate is the relationship (in your gut, do you feel that it is temporary or does it have long-term potential)?

•Who appears to be more invested or committed to the relationship – or is it somewhat balanced?

•Is he or she outdoorsy, athletic, and casual – Or are they higher maintenance, cultured, and impressed with style and trends?

•Is he or she a trend setter, a follower, or could they care less about “keeping up with the Jones’s”?

•Is he or she extroverted or introverted – What is their comfort level for crowds or various unpredictable circumstances?

•What are their interests besides work, school, and hobbies? •What are the things that you like about him or her?

•Would they prefer to attend a classic theatrical performance - Or a sporting event?

•What are the gift receiver’s dreams and or current hobbies – Are they a flighty romantic or more concerned with order?

•Is he or she more impressed with cutting edge gadgets - Or a sentimental and handmade gift?

•Does he or she have any phobias or allergies? – If receiver is allergic to peanuts, certain candies, snacks, and foods which include this nut may be off the table!

In A Nutshell

ALL of the acquired data from above questions can be useful when deciding what type of gift may be appropriate for the receiver and for selecting a gift which accurately reflects the state of the relationship. Even though the article utilizes the holiday season as an opportunity or as context within which to discuss gift giving, the contents can be applied and adapted to various gift exchange scenarios, including but not limited to birthdays, seasonal holidays, anniversaries, work related circumstances, or to my favorite scenario – The “just because” scenario!

Gift giving can be a perplexing and daunting task but taking the time to give a unique, thoughtful, and creative present will surely impress and thus resonate in the gift receiver’s memory for years to come.