No, that title is not a typo (although until this thing catches on, I think it is going to hurt me on SEO). While noodling around for a title for this post, I think I discovered an un-met vocabulary need. We have a lovely word to describe the day before a big event: 'eve'. Short, easy to pronounce, and everyone knows what it means. Why don't we have a similar word for the day after? I propose we borrow the positive characteristics of 'eve' and call this day 'ove'. Short, easy to pronounce, and even if you don't know what it means (yet), you can sort of guess it might be short for 'over' as in, Christmas Is Over. If your mind went to 'ovaries' instead of 'over', you are probably a middle-aged woman like me, and you know at our age 'ovaries' is synonymous with 'over', so there ya go!
On this Christmas Ove, you may find yourself reflecting on the act of giving. Gift-giving is definitely an art. I don't consider myself an expert, but I am definitely past the apprentice stage. My son was opining that he did not feel like he did a particularly good job of giving this year. Not so much from the monetary value of the gifts, but from the selection and presentation. I told him there are a few tricks of the trade in crushing it as a gifter. Some I learned from watching others more masterful than I. Others, I learned from either giving or receiving things that were, frankly, Gift Fails.
If you are wondering why it matters what you give someone as long as you give SOMETHING, because 'it's the thought that counts', you are either not mature enough to benefit from the forthcoming advice, so you can stop reading now; or you are a complete narcissist, in which case you can share this post with your friends and relatives to ensure quality gift-giving to yourself in future.
I remember clearly as a teen the Christmas when I discovered the true joy of giving. And I am not kidding or being trite. It was the first time I remember being WAY more interested in giving than receiving. My dad's employer had a good year, and the big boss was handing out big bonuses. So Dad decided to get my mom a big wow gift (jewelry) for Christmas. He let my brother and I in on the secret. I was so excited for Christmas morning to come so that I could enjoy Mom's enjoyment of the gift.The gift was a hit, thank goodness. This was a big deal because Dad had been known to have a few Gift Fails. Hard to say whether he was wanting in the gift-giving area, or my mom was hard to buy for. Probably a combination of both. Mom used to tell the story of the time early in their marriage when Dad bought her a bejeweled can opener. I could elaborate on that story, but really, 'bejeweled can opener' pretty much says it all.
So my Christmas Ove gift to you is a few tips on how to up your gift-giving game next year. BTW it's not about how much you spend - it's what you spend it on. A careful investment of time and consideration of what to buy will pay off.
Be clear who the gift is for. Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer bought Marge a bowling ball complete with 'Homer' etched onto it? Many Gift Fails are a result of the giver mistakenly choosing something they themselves would like to receive. So when you see that cool faux alligator red patent leather combination phone case/wallet clutch on sale in November, just ask yourself: is Dad really into red patent leather?
Avoid chore gifting. Chore gifts are gifts that would mostly be applied to tasks that might be considered chores by the person receiving the gifts. Gents, listen carefully here: vacuums clearly fall into this category. I don't care how many nails and quarters and acorns the Orca Elite sucks up on the cool infomercial. Do. Not. Buy. Her. A. Vacuum. Bejeweled toilet scrubbers and bejeweled can openers are also a no-no.
It's a wrap. Some people are just difficult to buy for. In such cases, quality wrapping can cover a multitude of gifting sins. And you don't have to be an origami expert to get this right. A cute gift bag accented with some NEW coordinating color tissue paper (use plain white paper as a last resort; resist the urge to recycle last year's tissue paper; do NOT use toilet paper as a substitute, no matter how tempting at 3am Christmas morning). These cost little and go a long way toward dressing up a questionable offering. If you can't quite get the gift right, you can at least nail the presentation!
Details. It's okay to half-ass the gift to the paper boy. But you should know enough details about the significant people in your life to show you know the details when you buy them gifts. Some examples of how some gift ideas can seem like slam-dunks, but without knowing the details, can go horribly wrong:
-Food/beverage.You found a great deal on a cute festive coffee sampler basket. Do they even drink coffee? Dessert gifts abound during the holidays. Is your giftee a fitness freak? Diabetic? Allergic? Crunchy or sticky items - do you really want to be the guy responsible for her $1500 crown?
-Jewelry. Very tricky to buy for the ladies in your life. Rings are problematic in that they may accidentally convey an unintended message of commitment. Also they come in sizes, very hard to determine without giving away the surprise. How about non-sized items like earrings or necklaces? Fine, but semi-precious stones are often associated with a specific birthday month. Do you know her stone? Her birthday?? Pierced or clip-on earrings? Prefer gold or silver? Bracelets, you say? Some bracelets come in sizes. Is she a 7-inch or an 8-inch? Watches? Just because she doesn't wear a watch doesn't mean she needs or wants a watch. We could go on forever here. If you are determined to buy jewelry for a female, consider asking her friends or relatives what she prefers, or observe carefully over a couple of weeks to see what she wears.
-Hats. Ladies, be aware men's hats sometimes come in sizes other than 'one size fits all'. Do you have a clue what size his head is? I know, it probably varies depending on how great a week he is having.
-Books. If it's on the New York Times bestseller list, must be a lock, right? Maybe. Fiction or non-fiction? When is the last time you saw them reading a book?
-Clothing. Buying fitted clothing for women should be avoided at all costs unless you are very, very certain of their size. Too large? You may think you are in the clear here because they will be flattered they are just so dang fit and trim, the item is too big. But no. You are now the knucklehead who has no clue what size they are. Too small? Whoa, buddy, you do not even want to go there. Stick with scarves (lame), gloves (lamer), or socks (lamest) if you must buy an item of clothing.
Plan ahead. As you can see, quality gifting can take time. Don't pull a Serena Williams and 'forget'
Christmas is on December 25th this year. You have 364 days to come up with something. Learn from the Gifting Master and make a list. Check it twice. By about August you would be looking for gift opportunities everywhere. You don't have to buy it then, but at least start looking for options. If you are not a great planner, Amazon Prime free two-day shipping is your BFF. Join now.
Cash out. By now you may be tempted to throw in the towel and give cash. As my mother says, 'it's always the right color'. Cash gifts appear to be making a resurgence after being beaten into submission by the gift card and online buying trends of the past several years. I am a fan of cash, but be careful about giving it to those closest to you. Rule of thumb: do not give cash to anyone who would be insulted by you leaving it for them on the nightstand.
Gifting handicaps. As if all this gifting strategy weren't complicated enough, I would be doing you a disservice if I did not mention gifting handicaps. Exactly the same as golf. Handicaps exist to even out the playing field. Gifting handicaps are why your wife may squeal with delight over the tatty construction paper poinsettia your son made for her in kindergarten, yet give a subtle but noticeable stink-eye to the $50 iTunes gift card you so cleverly stashed (unwrapped) in her Christmas stocking. He gets extra points because 1) he's cute and 2) he has no money of his own, yet he still spent time and effort doing his best to provide a gift. You get the stink-eye because 1) you've been giving her the same gift every year since iTunes was a thing; 2) you spent approximately 3.2 seconds on this impulse purchase while standing in line at the Piggly Wiggly buying yourself some Natty Lite, Cheese Wiz, and Preparation H. So gifting is not a straight-up proposition. You will be competing with adorable 5-year-olds. Gird your loins.
Keep the receipt. Sometimes despite all your best efforts, your gift just may not be the cat's pajamas. Literally. They sell cat pajamas now. Anyway - be a considerate giver and accept this possibility. Give things that can be easily exchanged or returned. Most stores provide a gift receipt option. Stick it in a small envelope and include it in the gift bag or box. They may never use it, but your giftee will appreciate the thought.
It can be exhausting, but it's worth it to improve your gifting skills. This is one of the best-kept secrets of Christmas: that giving can be so much better than receiving, if you do it right. Knowing this makes watching clips of those awful annual Black Friday Wal-Mart mob scenes slightly more palatable. One can only hope the guy at the bottom of the pile with the last Xbox in the store is taking a pounding to bring home a great gift for his kid, not just gifting himself.
Now that you are armed with quality gifting advice, next year you can avoid Black Friday altogether and look forward to basking in the gift-giving afterglow of Christmas Ove.
This post was originally published in December 2013.