Etiquette Questions, Answered: Holidays and Gifts
Must I Reciprocate Gift-Giving to Relatives I Barely Know?
Q: I have distant relatives who always send holiday gifts to my children, and I feel the need to reciprocate even though I hardly know them. How can I stop the exchange without hurting their feelings?
A: First of all: Who are these people who have it together enough to send gifts not just to the people they know but to the people they don’t?! Setting aside my own gift-giving inadequacy issues, I would still argue that while it’s lovely for your relatives to send, say, your children gifts, you do not need to reciprocate. There are always going to be a few lopsided exchanges―which is OK! Some years, you might receive a gift from someone you have nothing for; other years, you might give a present to someone who has nothing for you. I like to embrace this as part of the chaos of the season. But for these relatives you ask about, I think the best approach is to send a preemptive holiday card―and a card only. Hopefully, they’ll get the message and follow suit. You never know: It might be a relief for them to end the gift exchange as well. If that doesn’t happen, I would then just send a nice thank-you note, with a few extra “What a lovely surprise!” mentions thrown in to help drive the message home.
Most Popular Galleries
Everyone agrees embarrassment can be excruciating. But is the emotion all bad? Discover its surprising upside—and learn how to get over it more easily—with this expert advice for kids and adults.