Ho! Ho! Ohhhh...When the holidays roll around, we definitely want to spoil our loved ones, but what’s the gift-giving policy when it comes to the not-so-close yet important people in our lives? Here’s a guide to help you determine whether to give a gift, or not, and feel good about your decision.
The holidays are a time of giving and of sharing what you have, whether it’s material goods, your time, money, food, experience, wisdom, attention or affection. A gift should be a generous gesture that makes you (and the recipient) feel good, not uncomfortable, guilty or inadequate. But too often, we fall into the trap of handing over a present because it seems expected of us, or it feels rude not to reciprocate when we’re the receiver. When someone asks us, “Did you get all your shopping done?” is it implied that we need to buy something for everyone? But even Santa Claus checks his list twice.
The truth of the matter is that most of us have to decide who will be getting a gift, and that’s where it gets complicated. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the season and continue to add people to your list, but the reality is that few of us have the resources to include everyone we know. So how do you manage those expectations, both for yourself and for the people in our lives?
Review your list each year and set limits on the number of recipients or the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Keep in mind, when deciding who your list should include and what you’d like to purchase, what gift-giving is really about: Any present is about communication. The meaning behind a gift, therefore, is just as important as the gift itself. Saying “Thank you,” “I love you,” “I’m thankful for you,” “I’m thinking of you,” is the purpose, at the end of the day—so make sure everyone you care about knows how much they mean to you.
And as with all rules of etiquette, the concepts of comfort and inclusion should be first and foremost, so think about how to give appropriately. If your neighbours can’t afford to reciprocate your gift, say, they may feel awkward or uneasy. Putting everyone at ease means “reading the room,” as it were, and considering the feelings of others.
In that respect, giving doesn’t have to mean spend- ing. If your budget can’t stretch to buying every colleague a bottle of wine, for example, try taking the time to write each person a note with a caring message inside instead. Julie Blais Comeau, etiquette specialist and founder of etiquettejulie.com, suggests being as specific as possible—highlight the recipients’ individual talents or what they’ve done to help better a situation. Let each of them know exactly how they’ve impacted your life and how much you appreciate them.
- Do something for everyone: Buy a big box of chocolates or an edible arrangement and a nice card for your work colleagues or the staff at your child’s school.
- Give equally or not at all: If you’d like to do something more individualized for workmates or teachers, simply offer the same thing to each person—varying only the colour or the flavour.
- If you have close colleagues that you consider friends, it’s okay to exchange gifts. Just be discreet about doing so in order not to hurt others’ feelings.
- Go in on gifts as a group: Pool together with other friends, employees, or parents for a gift that isn’t too expensive or personal.
- Follow workplace gift-giving policies: If you’re thinking of offering gifts to clients or suppliers, be sure to check the company’s policy first.
- Double up on tips: If you want to do something special for your hairdresser or dog walker, add a little something extra to their regular rate or tip.
- Give the gift of a donation: A generous and humanitarian gesture is always the right thing to do!
- CanadaHelps.org: The gift recipient gets to choose where their donation will go from a large list of charitable organizations.
- Plancanada.ca: Make a one-time donation and Plan Canada will match 4 times that amount until December 31st.
- WWF.ca: The World Wildlife Fund of Canada offers a symbolic adoption kit that includes a plush toy, a personalized adoption certificate, a poster and a gift bag. All net proceeds help support WWF conservation efforts.