"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
Had a little rodent been scurrying past the skirted boughs of ye olde Christmas tree just as St. Nick was bringing joy to the world, I can assure you Mr. Claus would've screamed like a little girl and been back up that chimney so fast all those sugar-plum-dreaming children would've awoken to nary a piece of coal. Now obviously the poem's not really about rodents, it's about the magic of materialism. But the juxtaposition of woodland creature and wrapped packages did bring to mind the fact that even the most miniature and the most adorable can be terrifying when unexpected. And in that way, the mice and the gifts - not so different.
We've all experienced the disappointment of a really crap gift. Interestingly, I'm not sure any of us would admit to giving a bad present, and that math doesn't quite add up. Rather than point fingers, I think we could all benefit from a little gift-giving review, and who better to learn from than The Fat Man himself? (Or me, pretending to be his ghost writer.)
A few general rules of thumb that will land you a responsible gift-giver merit badge: consider the occasion; buy for the recipient, not yourself; put a little thought into it. This seems straightforward and shouldn't give you much pause; however, for those of you ruminating on this as much as I ponder the ingredients in fruitcake, let me explain further.
The tenets outlined above sometimes overlap but they can, more or less, be broken into the following:
- The Well-Considered Gift -
First, you must know the reason behind your gift purchase, which might prove difficult for some. Calendars are a great way to remember holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. They're also versatile because you can write down other celebrations that often require a bestowal like birthdays, anniversaries, and funerals. (Don't worry, we'll get to gift-giving at funerals.) With agenda book in hand, next choose a present that reflects the event's significance. In other words, you want the value of your offering to resemble the occasion's importance. For example, making a hand-turkey for the college graduate in your life is ill-advised. Not only does it reveal that you're probably in the dark about the reason everyone's gathered together, but it also subtly suggests that you view this student's several years of schooling as on par with the task of tracing your hand, using scissors, and coloring feathers. And perhaps for you, hand-turkey gift-giver, the construction paper fowl was that hard...
- The Well-Informed Gift -
As I said earlier, there's a bit of overlap between categories, and the well-informed gift also speaks to knowing the occasion for which you're buying. Unlike the well-considered gift, where you have to translate that knowledge into a present that nicely reflects the celebration at hand, the well-informed gift means staying abreast of the situation so that a once very appropriate birthday present for Grandpa doesn't have to be opened by his widow, graveside. (Remember how I said we'd get to gift-giving at funerals? Well, here we are, and it never ends well.) In case you don't yet grasp the concept, it means checking your voice messages, reading texts, and glancing at status updates to ensure the ostensibly adorable onesie and baby hat you just put in the mail isn't rendered horribly offensive after they're received by the couple mourning their recent miscarriage. Enough said?
- The Well-Timed Gift -
Now we turn to the delicate art of timing. If you thought we were already there, we were; but sometimes, there's no way to know. This idea is more felt than learned, but can be faked by observing the situation and context clues around you. For instance, if all of the boxes and cards are stacked together on a table then that's probably where you should also place yours. No fun interrupting the bride and groom's first dance by rushing up and handing over your toaster oven. Also no fun to surprise your lover with your package wrapped in a package (otherwise known as a "dick in a box"), just as her parents are dropping by for a visit you forgot-until-now-that-she-had-mentioned-earlier-might-happen. Open your eyes and ears because the last thing you want to hear out of your girlfriend's father's mouth is, "Son, those are the smallest nipples I've ever seen."
This holiday season follow a few simple rules: check the calendar, stay informed, and make your presentation at the appropriate time. In short, think twice, avoid mice, and be the gift-giver who's not naughty but nice.