December 2011 – blogUT

Christmas has come and gone, Hanukkah will soon be over, and most gifts have been exchanged with (hopefully) minimal awkwardness. For those of you who put some thought into your presents and maybe followed my advice, gifting should have been a fun and rewarding experience. I have no sympathy for those who did not. As this segment wraps up, now is the time to reflect on the holiday gift-giving season and learn even more for next year.


My brother got a turtle wall calendar and an anthology of H. P Lovecraft, my mother got a high-quality retro-style kitchen timer, my best friend got an irreverent guide to –isms, and my cousin got a flip calendar of 365 words to make her sound smarter. Of the gifts I gave this season these were the highlights, or at the very least the presents that were best-received. I was very aware when I gave them, having spent the past little while writing and thinking about the act of gift-giving. I paid close attention to my recipients’ reactions and what their first thoughts on their gifts were. As predicted, the newspaper wrapping did little to impress but a lot to conceal and titillate, the cards were meager but heartfelt, and the knowledge that these gifts represented a shared pleasure among me and my friends. Is my soul liberated? I don’t know. Did I feel just as warm and fuzzy as my recipients when sharing the moments with my friends and family? Absolutely.

Miscellanea (AKA Qs I Wish Were FA)

Q: Are there any gifts I should never buy?

A: Candles seem to be very popular as presents even though they’re a poor choice 99.99% of the time; they come off looking very last-minute and poorly thought-out. Scented candles may also be implying something about your recipient’s home. Seriously.

Q: I am exchanging gifts with someone for the first time this year, and I don’t know the value of what they’re going to get me. What do I do?

A: Remember that your recipient is in the same boat you are, and come up with your closest ballpark guess. Then, once you’ve opened the gift they’ve gotten you, make sure to gush about it and compliment as much as possible: if it’s more expensive than the one you’ve bought you’ll be letting the giver know you truly appreciate the extra dollar they’ve put in; if it’s less expensive than the one you’ve bought they’ll feel better knowing that you don’t feel their gift is inadequate.

Q: I notice a disturbing omission of home-made gifts in your posts. What’s up with that, you consumerist monster?

A: I haven’t bothered to write about home-made presents because there is very little I can say about them. What you make is a reflection of you and what you want to express, and I can’t really evaluate if what you’re expressing is right or not. When in doubt, a store-bought gift is the way to go, but if you’re certain of your ability to make a gift that meets rules 1 and 2 from Part 2, go for it.

Q: What are your thoughts on gift receipts?

A: Always include a gift receipt for clothing and electronics, in case they need to be returned because they don’t fit or are defective. In other cases, gift receipts make it seem as though you want or expect your recipient to exchange your gift and that you doubt the quality of the gift you’ve bought. Part of the joy of getting a present is the knowledge that is was chosen for you, but a gift receipt makes it seem as though you are choosing for yourself.

Q: What are your thoughts on gift cards?

A: Gift cards are excellent presents for people you don’t know very well. Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Cineplex, and Indigo! are almost guaranteed hits because of their popularity and/or large selections. Do not give a gift card to someone you know well for the same reason you shouldn’t give them an arbitrary present with a gift receipt: it’s lazy and impersonal.

Q: Do I get gifts for my professors or TAs?

A: Uh, no. It may seem like a nice gesture, and I hazard one in every 5 professors and TAs would genuinely appreciate it, but the rest would likely interpret a holiday present as an attempt at apple-polishing. If you feel you have a truly special relationship with your TA or professor you could give it a shot, but it’s risky. People for whom you should buy (small) presents: peer mentors, FLC leaders, advisors, academic dons, and other staff in your residence you see frequently. Good small gift ideas include small boxes of chocolate or candy from Shoppers and low-value gift cards to coffee shops.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this series on student holiday gift-giving as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a merry rest of the holidays, a happy (and safe) New Year, and enjoy the rest of your winter break. You’ve earned it.

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