It’s a universal complaint that can heard in almost any lounge room in Australia on December 26th. While sitting in front of the TV, belly full of ham, roast potatoes and pudding, someone will complain about a gift they were given the day before. The question that is always asked is simply: “Why did he/she think I’d like that for Christmas?”
Don’t you love it? That look on the person’s face as they rip the paper off the present. As they catch a glimpse of the item underneath, they momentarily give away the fact that they are disappointed, confused and unhappy. That expression is quickly followed by a smile, ear to ear, and a hug and a kiss to the giver. Why do we put ourselves through this each year?
My immediate family are generally good at picking gifts. It was a bit touch-and-go one year (my mother almost bought me an electric toothbrush) but I’ve never had a profoundly bad gift given by my parents or my siblings. I can’t say the same thing about distant family members. One relative has continually upped the ante, year after year. He started up his own business, making gourmet food products. Slowly but surely, he has replaced dollar value presents with his self-made food items which cost him very little to produce. Bear in mind, I’m talking about obscure things like jams and sauces. Hardly something I can get excited about…
Like everyone else, I have relatives who I see only a couple of times a year. I’ve noticed that these relatives tend to give generic, gender-specific gifts, for example, all the adult men might get a deodorant and aftershave pack. This is acceptable – it’s too hard to buy individual gifts for every person. However, a few times my distant relatives have picked out something especially for me, and most of those times, my thought has been – you really shouldn’t have. Recently, a relative gave me a book about stamps which related to Australian history. She was so excited by it, because she knew I liked stamps. The truth was, I had liked them a decade ago, but that passion fizzled out about the same time I stopped reading Famous Five novels.
If you speak up and say you don’t like what someone has given you, you’ll be considered terribly rude. However, if you don’t speak up, it will keep happening year after year. What can we do to solve this most universal of problems? I propose that next year, we have a bad gift honesty armistice. For one year, everyone who receives an undesirable gift can inform the giver that they made a bad choice. No-one is allowed to get offended or hold grudges against the receiver who speaks up and offers their opinion. Wouldn't that be great?