It's the time of year for giving and receiving gifts. I've been making lists and checking them twice. Unfortunately, the meaningful Christian tradition of gift giving, which began with the Biblical account of Magi bringing gifts to baby Jesus, has become more complicated. Keep gift giving simple, meaningful and fun by following these do's and don'ts.
Do think about what the recipient would like. Consider asking them for a wish list or a few ideas.
Do keep in mind your recipient's belief system. Not every person celebrates Christmas. Acknowledging Hanukkah or Kwanzaa for those who celebrate will show respect and kindness.
Do thank the gift giver for the gift. If you open a gift in front of them, say thank you immediately. If not, make a phone call or send a card to thank them. Gift givers like to know their gifts were received and enjoyed.
Do think about presentation. Choose nice wrapping paper or a nice gift bag to make your gift special. I buy these items after Christmas for the next year when they are on sale. Then I always have plenty on hand.
Do let children choose and wrap gifts for those they love. There is nothing sweeter than a heartfelt gift given by a child. Children can draw on paper or stamp plain wrapping paper to make cards and wrappings.
Do be creative. Unexpected wrappings and gifts make holidays fun. Newspaper, irregular boxes, useful items like reusable shopping bags and even paper lunch sacks make good wrappings. The Internet abounds with gift list ideas.
Do find good hiding places for gifts until it's time to give them. And then remember where you hid them. It seems each year we find a gift or two after the holiday has passed.
Do give meaningful gifts. Heirlooms, letters, photographs or personalized items all make great gifts.
Do give homemade gifts. Baked goods, jams, jewelry and crocheted items are all things I've given that I've made myself. I treasure the gifts my friends and family have made for me, as well. My family had a homemade gift exchange last year, and everyone enjoyed being creative.
Don't offer ideas for gifts you'd like to receive unless you are asked.
Don't show disappointment if the gift isn't exactly what you wanted. I remember crying over gifts a few times as a child. My parents were very understanding, but I wasn't very gracious.
Don't go over budget. You will regret spending too much and might take it out on your recipients. Know your budget and stick to it.
Don't peek! Or, try not to. I was a peeker for many, many years, and I always felt let down when Christmas arrived and I already knew most of my presents. My mother will be proud to know my peeking days are over.
Don't feel as though you have nothing to give. If your family's budget is small, write letters, have children draw pictures, make service coupons or bake special goodies to share. The intent behind the gift is as important as the gift, itself.
Don't forget about wrapping. No one likes to receive a gift in a plastic bag from the store. Make time to wrap gifts, even if they are done very simply.
Don't open gifts and immediately discard them, especially if the recipient is watching. I try to teach my children to look carefully at the gift and make a positive comment. Part of giving and receiving is learning proper manners.
Don't regift to someone who is in the same social circle as the person you received the gift from. I think that regifting is fine, and better than throwing the item away, but make sure the item still looks new. Consider the original gifter's feelings. Even if you don't love Aunt Hilda's hand-knitted sweater, she might expect to see you wear it once or twice.
Don't be greedy. When all the presents are under the tree, my children love to count and see who has the very most. This practice is expected and acceptable for children, but not adults.
Giving gifts should promote feelings of generosity and love. Receiving gifts should make us feel thankful and blessed. By following these simple do's and don'ts for holiday gifting, you and your family can have a wonderful season of giving and receiving. Here are some ideas on teaching kids about gratitude.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.